NEXT DEVELOPMENT:
Trial Continues 
Plaintiffs Continue To Present Testimony; Fox Officials To Be Called 

Report Archive:

ˇ July 24, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 6
Second week of trial begins

ˇ July 21, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 5
Week one ends with a bang;
Fox seeks mistrial, Judge
says no

ˇ  July 20, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Days 3 and 4 

ˇ July 18, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 2


ˇ July 17, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 1

ˇ July 14, 2000:
Justice For Sale In Tampa?
Finally at the courthouse,
litigants can't afford to use
the courtroom facilities

ˇ July 12, 2000:
Fox Loses Key Motion; Jury
Is Seated

Plaintiffs do not have to
prove Fox guilty of violating Communications Act

ˇ July 8, 2000:
Potential Landmine Could
Derail Entire Case

ˇ June 30, 2000:
Judge Steinberg Ready To
Get Case Back On Track

ˇ June 26, 2000:
Another Judge Says 'No' to Hearing Wilson/Akre v Fox Case

ˇ June 21, 2000:
Still No Judge To Hear Fox/BGH Case While Foxes Dishes More Distortion To WTVT Tampa Viewers

ˇ June 16, 2000:
Trial Date Pushed Back Again; New Judge To Be Selected

ˇ June 8, 2000:
Fox  Manager Who Fired Akre and Wilson In Tampa Gets Big Promotion 
David Boylan Flies Into The Sunset to Manage KTTV, Los Angeles

ˇ June 6, 2000:
Fox Trial Will Start Sooner Than Expected
It will proceed in the heat of the summer, probably in July

ˇ May 25, 2000:
Fox Trial Will Not Start June 12 as Scheduled

ˇ May 18, 2000:
Fox Still Stalls on Testimony of Its president Mitchell Stern
Pre-trial hearing is otherwise uneventful

ˇ May 8, 2000:
Ralph Nader Testifies About Broadcasters' Public Interest Requirement
Presidential candidate gives testimony at pre-trial depo 

ˇ May 5, 2000:
Court-ordered Mediation Is Brief and Unsuccessful
Trial set to begin June 12

ˇ April 28,2000:
Fox Challenges rBGH Experts At Depositions

Fox lawyers laying ground-
work to tell jurors experts are cancer scaremongers?

ˇ April 26,2000:
Walter Cronkite Testifies on Behalf of Akre & Wilson
Fox lawyers lodge objections

ˇ October 19:
Fox Lawyers Insist On Secrecy At Deposition
French TV Ejected

ˇ October 18:
FDA Wants Comments on G-M Foods
Public Meetings Start in November

ˇ October 13:
Judge Rules: Trial Will Proceed: Defense loses third effort to have case dismissed

ˇ September 24:
MSNBC: Gene-modified foods might get labels:
Industry weighs voluntary steps, U.S. studies options as well

ˇ September 20:
Trial Still Set to Start Soon: Busy Docket Delays foxBGHsuit

ˇ August 4:
MSNBC: Mutable Feast:
Will the fight over gene-altered food products leapfrog across the Atlantic?

ˇ June 30:
Consumers International:
UN Health Group Shuns BGH

ˇ June 1:
New York Times:
Farmers’ Right To Sue Grows - Food Warning Muzzle Likely

ˇ May 10:
Corporate Crime Reporter:
Monsanto Officials Join Leading Consumer, Environmental Groups

ˇ May 3:
Fox Deceives Viewers in Primetime, Too
Net Admits Staging after INSIDE EDITION Report

ˇ April 30:
Democracy Group Award to Akre/Wilson
Fired Reporters Cited for "Courage in Journalism"

ˇ April 29:
New Trial Date is October 11
Fox Piles On Big-Name Lawyers

ˇ April 17:
Clinton Lawyer Joins Fox Legal Team
David Kendall Involvement Confirmed in Letter to Monsanto

ˇ April 16:
Fox Pleads for Another Delay
Later Trial Date to be Set April 29th

ˇ April 1:
Judge Says BGH Case Will Go To Trial
Opening Gavel Falls May 10th

ˇ February 16:
PENTHOUSE Exposes BGH, Fox Coverup:
First-rate story of BGH situation and lawsuit against Fox TV (rated G -- no nudity, just the story)

ˇ January 25:
ENS Summary of BGH Developments

ˇ January 14:
How Fox Wanted to Slant News of Canadian Concerns
Canadian BGH Concerns Were Big Issue In Firing of Fox Reporters

ˇ January 14:
Canada Says NO to BGH!
Read the CBC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ January 14:
Health Canada Rejects Bovine Growth Hormone in Canada
Government News Release

ˇ December 16:
Akre & Wilson Win Courage Award
For Work On Story Which Cost Them Their Jobs

ˇ December 15:
ABC NEWS Catches Up on BGH
Read the ABC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ November 7:
FOX Legal (8/28) Answers
to Reporters' Complaint Now Available

ˇ November 1:
Monsanto and Fox: Partners in Censorship
PR Watch - Showcase Article

ˇ October 30:
Canadians Probe Coverup Claim
Read CBC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ October 24:
Reporters Get Top SPJ Ethics Award

ˇ October 22:
BGH Issue Explodes in Canada:
Read CBC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ October 7:
SECRET Canadian Study Leaked...
...BGH safety questions unanswered?

ˇ Sept 13:
Akre-Wilson Depos Start

ˇ Sept 10:
TIMES/St. Petersburg
SP Times covers NutraSweet flap

ˇ Sept 10:
Our Story: Fox Still Protecting Monsanto?

ˇ Sept 8:
Fox Pulls Plug on NutraSweet Foe

ˇ Sept 1:
Reporters Respond To Defense

ˇ READ story FOX-TV refused to air...
or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ July 14:
Judge refuses to dismiss
all but one count of reporters' suit

ˇ July 5:
OBSERVER/London
Digger Still Plays Dirty

ˇ July 1:
Depositions Continue, Trial Date Set

ˇ June 7:
TIMES/St. Petersburg
Akre/Wilson Preparing FCC Complaint

ˇ May 26:
Judge rejects Defense motion
for Protective Order

ˇ May 25:
WEEKLY PLANET/Tampa:
Grazing A Stink - - -Don't Have a Cow

ˇ May 23:
NEW YORK TIMES:
(Silenced) Reporters... Post Web Site

ˇ May 21:
Wilson/Akre demand on-air correction

ˇ April 29:
FOX-TV asks court:
Dismiss case and Delay depositions

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‘I Was Out Of My Mind’
   FOX NEWS V-P LAYS CLAIM 
       TO INSANITY DEFENSE
 
                                                 By JANE AKRE
        TAMPA (July 25, 2000)—The defense made another U-turn today in the Fox/BGH trial today by claiming four new reasons Steve Wilson and Jane Akre were fired.  “I was looking for people who were chargers, not drainers,” Fox news V-P Philip Metlin told the jury.
        The husband-and-wife reporting team is suing the station for violation of Florida’s Whistleblower law, claiming they were fired by Fox for refusing to broadcast false and distorted information about Monsanto’s artificial bovine growth hormone (rBGH).
        When the two were fired, Fox notified them it was for “no cause” in accordance with a provision to do so during a window period.  But when Wilson protested, a Fox lawyer wrote although the two could have been fired for no cause, they were actually fired because they put up such a fuss in the ethical defense over the BGH story.


PHIL METLIN
'It Was Insanity'

        On the stand Monday, Metlin repeatedly claimed the two were actually fired for the sole reason that “they walked away from the story” after they learned of the station’s intent to dismiss them.  Today he changed his own story and said the journalists were fired because of a lack of productivity, they weren’t “team players,” and they 

wouldn’t come to work frequently enough during the nearly year-long struggle to get the investigative reports on the air.
        Continuing to represent himself in the courtroom, Wilson fired question after question at Metlin, chipping away at his claims during the morning examination. 
       “Did you ever send a single memo we were not productive?” Wilson asked.
       
“No,” Metlin replied. 
        “Did you ever send a single memo telling us you didn’t think we were team players?” he continued.  
        “It’s quite conceivable that I did,” Metlin hedged.
        Wilson persisted:  “So where is the evidence?  There is no evidence of that, is there Mr. Metlin.”
         “No evidence,” Metlin admitted in a quiet voice.
      
   Wilson was referring to WTVT’s system of “progressive discipline” shown to jurors earlier in the trial.  It states unruly employees first receive a verbal warning followed by a written warning before being terminated.  Metlin confessed that none of that had been done.
         The reporters’ controversial story which WTVT never aired focused on the use and human health concerns surrounding BGH which was approved by the FDA amidst a storm of protest and charges it has not been adequately tested for long-term human health effects.  Some studies strongly suggest a link to cancer for milk drinkers in years to come.
          The story sparked two angry letters from Monsanto to Fox News chief Roger Ailes.  The biotech giant threatened “dire consequences” if the story were aired. 

   
        Although Metlin has insisted to the jury that the reporters walked away from the story October 16, 1997, he admitted on the stand that he received exactly what he asked the reporters to produce—and it was delivered that very day.  The jury actually saw the scripts that Metlin received, along with a memo telling him the journalists respected his choice as to which script to air. 
         The news director admitted even though he got what he asked for 48 hours after his request, he said there was such insanity and madness at the time, he never read either of the scripts or the memo that accompanied them.
        That memo reads, in part: “With all due respect, we are again informing you that in our professional judgment, the (mandated script) in this form is biased and distorted to the point it would significantly mislead the viewers if broadcast.  We have thoroughly investigated the BGH issue for nearly a year now and, simply put, these versions do not faithfully represent the truth as we know it.” 
        The memo went on to say how the second script, requested by Metlin, represented a more honest and accurate story that would not mislead the public.
        The reporters maintain that lawyers for Fox were firmly in charge of the editing of the BGH story after the Monsanto threat letters arrived.  There has already been evidence that the president of Fox Television Stations ordered that the lawyers “take no risks” with the reports. 
        The basis of the suit is that federal law requires broadcast stations to operate in the public interest and slanting the news is not permitted under the law. 
        “A television station is not the corner hardware store,” Wilson says.  “It is not just a good idea for broadcasters to serve the public interest, it’s the law.”  Monday, journalism expert Forrest Carr testified that it is a reporter’s duty to protest and resist broadcasting a story the journalist believes is deliberately slanted. 
        Under intense questioning, Metlin maintained that when the reporters flagged what they believed were distortions in the story mandated by Fox lawyers, they “contaminated” the whole process to the point the story could not be aired.   He said it “took away his choice” about broadcasting either of the stories the reporters submitted.
       “Did you keep your promise to read both scripts?” Wilson asked, referring to the  Meltin memo dated October 14. 
       “ I did not,” the news executive admitted.  “You turned your back on the story.   I think I read the first two paragraphs of your memo and decided it’s all part of your lawsuit.”  The lawsuit was not filed until six months later.
        Metlin maintained that the reporters were simply laying “a paper trail” in preparation for the lawsuit, instead of making an honest to report the news. 
       “Was it all just part of some grand scheme?"  Wilson asked.  
       “Well, here we are,” Metlin responded.  “There was a lot of paper flying then.  I don’t know what I was doing.  I was out of my mind!" he said. 
      
  Wilson also forced another key admission when Metlin acknowledged that he never read the reporters’ version of the script until he was forced to do so at his deposition a year after the reporters were fired.
        “And do you remember your conclusion?” Wilson demanded.  “You concluded ‘they read pretty well to me,’ didn’t you, Mr. Metlin?” 
        Metlin’s reply:  “That sounds like something I said.” 
        Wilson then refreshed his recollection by reading those exact words from his deposition testimony."

The Insanity Defense
        Asked to review a highly critical letter the reporters received from Fox attorney Carolyn Forrest who accused the reporters of reckless accusations and sloppy reporting, Meltin claimed he never saw the letter and never did anything to ascertain whether the charges had any validity. 
        “When you arrived at the station and heard these things, didn’t you not want to know if you really had this kind of reporter?” 
        “No,” said Metlin, “I was aware of your reputation, you came from a national shop, you are what you are." 
        Metlin also maintained that he intentionally did not even read the Monsanto theat letters, the reporters responses to them, or any memos that followed over for months before he arrived.  “I wanted a clean slate,” he claimed. 

      
  Wilson then showed Metlin and the jury a Separation Agreement crafted by Fox lawyers in April and asked, “Isn't it true Fox made the decision to kill the story before April 17th?”  
        “That not even possible!" Metlin shot back.

      
   By September 23 when Metlin sat down to lunch with the reporters at a Tampa restaurant in trendy Hyde Park, Metlin says the reporters wanted to “start all over” with the story and again told him the felt the station had acquiesced to Monsanto's muscle. 
        “Madness and shock is what I felt,” Metlin says.  “I was so much in shock I even got lost going back to the office from lunch.” 

Directed Verdict Coming Soon? 
               At mid afternoon when jurors were out of the courtroom, Judge Ralph Steinberg brought up an old and troublesome issue.

         “Frankly, I've been doing a lot of reading to see if you can get past a directed verdict,” he warned.  "Where is the law, rule or regulation the defendant allegedly violated?  A policy violation is not enough.  You have to prove a lie or distortion is a violation of a law, rule or regulation.  You’ve gotten away from that entirely.  I don’t want a directed verdict, I want the jury to decide.”


JUDGE STEINBERG
He's Been Reading

 The same issue has been decided by two other judges previously assigned to the case but it is something that has troubled Judge Steinberg for some time.  He raised his concerns before the trial began, then backed away for taking further action, saying it would be improper to rule before he heard all the plaintiffs’ evidence at trial. 
        A directed verdict would mean that at the end of the plaintiffs’ case, the judge would rule as a matter of law that the case could not continue because the plaintiffs’ failed to produce evidence that they met the requirements of the law.
       Judge Steinberg has repeatedly said he does not want the case to be about the merits of BGH.   Plaintiffs have contended the jury will not be able to decide whether or not Fox directed them to lie unless they understand what was the truth about the science of BGH.  Based on the judge’s impatience with such testimony, Wilson and Akre have limited science testimony.  

      
Fox contends there is no law, rule or (FCC) regulation against slanting the news and therefore the plaintiffs’ case should not go forward.  The defense is expected to make that argument again when the plaintiffs’ rest their case next week.

Stories Posted Recently:

TRIAL COVERAGE:  SECOND WEEK BEGINS

TRIAL COVERAGE:  WEEK ONE ENDS WITH BANG

TRIAL COVERAGE:  DAYS THREE AND FOUR

TRIAL COVERAGE:  DAY TWO

TRIAL COVERAGE:  DAY ONE


JUSTICE FOR SALE AT THE COURTHOUSE?

FOX AIRS ANOTHER DISTORTED STORY ON rBGH

TRIAL DELAYED; NEW JUDGE TO BE CHOSEN

FOX MGR WHO FIRED JOURNOS GETS PROMOTED TO FOX'S SECOND-BIGGEST STATION

TRIAL TO START SOON, LATE JUNE/EARLY JULY

TRIAL DELAYED AGAIN WILL NOT START 6/12

FOX STALLS ON TESTIMONY OF ITS PRESIDENT

RALPH NADER TESTIFIES RE PUBLIC INTEREST

MEDIATION IS BRIEF AND UNSUCCESSFUL

FOX CHALLENGES PLAINTIFFS' rBGH EXPERTS

CRONKITE TESTIFIES FOR AKRE & WILSON 


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