Washington (CNSNews.com) - ABC News correspondent John Stossel, the co-anchor of 20/20, said most mainstream journalists, including those at his network, are leftists who view conservatives as "selfish and cruel" for embracing capitalism.
Stossel was in the nation's capital Tuesday to promote his new book, "Give Me a Break," at the libertarian Cato Institute. Although he praised ABC News for letting him present free-market viewpoints on 20/20, he criticized his peers for their hostility toward those ideas.
"Where I live in Manhattan and where I work at ABC, people say conservative the way people say child molester," he said. "[Conservative] is the worst thing for a reporter to be called. And I'm a little puzzled why they call me a conservative."
Stossel said, for instance, that he has libertarian views when it comes to drug use, prostitution, homosexuality and flag burning. Regardless, liberal media watchdogs like Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting have attacked him for aligning with conservatives.
Before adopting a skeptical view of the government and public-interest groups, Stossel was an enterprising consumer reporter. He won 18 Emmys while exposing shady business practices. But since realizing that more regulation might not be the answer to the world's problems, Stossel said he has observed changes, and he has only won one Emmy in that time.
"Leftist thinking is just the culture that I live in and the culture the reporters who populate the mainstream media live in," he said. "Everybody just agrees - more safety regulation, gun control, higher taxes. Who could not want that? Everybody around here wants that. Anyone who disagrees is seen as not just wrong but selfish and cruel. If I try to discuss this with my peers, I get blank stares."
He added, "The press is so filled with hatred for capitalism that someone who advocates for free markets rather than government control is a conservative and a problem."
Stossel's book details some of the challenges he has encountered because of his free-market perspective. He told the crowd of libertarians that one of his "worst battles" with ABC News' legal review department happened when he did a feature on rent control.
"Everything I do has to be read by two liberal ABC lawyers and at least two liberal ABC producers," he said. "In this case, an economically illiterate lawyer kept blocking it. He demanded we interview more economists that would soften the piece and put it more in perspective because he was convinced it would be a disaster for poor people if rent control was abolished. Turned out he lived in a rent-controlled apartment."
While not all of Stossel's stories get the green light from ABC News, he promised to "plunge ahead" with his special reports and 20/20 features. Stossel is in line to be the sole anchor on the show once co-host Barbara Walters steps down in September.
"ABC, God bless them, they don't always agree with me," he said, "but they let me do most of the things I want to do."
Stossel passed up the opportunity to talk about the work of other ABC News journalists, including World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings. The Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNSNews.com, has criticized Jennings for biased reporting on the Bush administration and the Iraq war among other issues.
"I think as long as ABC is paying me," Stossel said, "they have a right to have me shut up about my opinions about what other people at ABC are doing."
When a member of the audience later asked Stossel why he had not joined a network with "journalistic integrity," such as Fox, the ABC newsman defended his employer.
"I'm going to stay with ABC," he said. "ABC has 10 million viewers typically, Fox has 1 [million], so the three networks can say, 'Fox is not doing good journalism, and the proof is that nobody's watching. We have 30 [million]; they have 1 [million]. Those are all right-wing nuts.' "
Stossel also used the occasion to take a swipe at The New York Times and The Washington Post. While the newspapers reach only a fraction of people compared to the television networks, he said radio and television producers rely heavily on their contents.
"The reason the Times, and to a lesser extent the Post, are so important, and they are, is because the TV and radio - all of the media - copy it sycophantically," he said. "That's how bias at the Times becomes bias in other media."
An ABC News spokeswoman had no immediate reaction to Stossel's comments Tuesday night.
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Former ABC Reporter Questions 'Competence' of Jennings (Dec. 8, 2003)
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