CBS’s “60 Minutes” program may cave to threats by President Trump’s attorneys not to air a controversial interview already taped if they file, as threatened, a law suit based upon a non-disclosure agreement signed by pornographic movie star Stormy Daniels, the woman who claims she had sex with the president, suggests public interest John Banzhaf.They yielded to very similar legal concerns, then from a corporation and not backed up by the power of the presidency, likewise based upon a non-disclosure agreement, in a case which may well have cost thousands of lives, says Banzhaf, who was involved at the time with the subject matter, and indeed had provided similar confidential information to the same federal agency.
The prior incident occurred when “60 Minutes” refused to air an interview with former tobacco executive Jeffery Wigand when it was faced with concerns about a legal action based upon a non-disclosure agreement Wigand had signed with his then-employer Brown & Williamson.
Famed broadcaster Mike Wallace, a fixture on the program, said that he and about 100 of his colleagues at “60 Minutes” “were dismayed that the management at CBS had seen fit to give in to perceived threats of legal action against us by a tobacco industry giant.” The Wigand tape was only aired months later because The Wall Street Journal published testimony Wigand had given in a lawsuit.
The New York Times, in an editorial “Self Censorship at CBS,” said: “”60 Minutes’ has decided to spike an interview with a tobacco-industry whistleblower out of fear of a lawsuit that the industry had not even threatened to file. This act of self-censorship by the country’s most powerful and aggressive television news program sends a chilling message to journalists investigating industry practices everywhere.”
The CBS interview, like the testimony, highlighted the tobacco industry’s efforts to conceal research on the harmful effects of smoking, including its manipulations to make smoking even more addictive.
Had the interview aired as originally scheduled, it probably would have helped persuade thousands of smokers to save their lives by quitting, and the federal government to take effective actions to save even more lives, says Banzhaf.
Banzhaf has been called “The Man Behind the Ban on Cigarette Commercials,” “Mr. Anti-Smoking,” “The Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation Against the Tobacco Industry,” and “a Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars.”
If CBS was willing to cave in to concerns about a lawsuit which had not even been filed, and by a corporation acting alone, why would it not be willing to likewise again besmirch its journalistic integrity if a lawsuit is in fact filed by the president who, in addition, has and regularly uses his bully pulpit to pressure major news organizations, says Banzhaf.