ABC apologizes to cigarette makers over ‘spiking’ allegation
VIRGINIA–ABC should not have reported that cigarette makers Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds add significant amounts of nicotine from outside sources to their products, the network said in a late August apology to the companies to settle libel suits filed against the network.
The apology was read during ABC’s “World News Tonight,” and was rebroadcast during “Monday Night Football” the same night and during “Day One,” the magazine show that originally reported the “spiking” charges, three days later.
ABC also agreed to pay the legal expenses of the two companies as part of the settlement, the tobacco companies said.
The network said it still stands by the main focus of the story, which was “whether cigarette companies use the reconstituted tobacco process to control the levels of nicotine in cigarettes in order to keep people smoking.” The tobacco companies said the focus was whether tobacco was “spiked” with nicotine from external sources.
Philip Morris sued the network in March 1994 in a Richmond circuit court after a “Day One” report showed an unidentified former R.J. Reynolds employee, dubbed “Deep Cough,” saying that the cigarette makers adjust levels of nicotine to “keep the consumer happy.” Philip Morris later subpoenaed travel, phone and credit card records of ABC reporters and producers in order to discover the identity of the source. The subpoenas were eventually struck down by the court. (Philip Morris Companies v. American Broadcasting Companies; Media Counsel: William Broaddus, Richmond)