ABC hit with second libel suit from tobacco company
NORTH CAROLINA — In late February, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. launched a libel suit against ABC in Superior Court in Winston- Salem for a report claiming that cigarette makers spike their products with extra nicotine. The suit is similar to one filed against the network in March 1994 by R.J. Reynolds’ competitor Philip Morris.
The libel suit names the network, ABC correspondent John Martin and producer Walt Bogdanich as defendants, the AP reported. The suit, which was filed a few days before the statute of limitations would have expired, also alleges ABC engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices.
In an ABC “Day One” report last year, a silhouetted confidential source, identified as a former manager of R.J. Reynolds, claimed that the tobacco companies added nicotine to cigarettes “to keep the consumer happy.”
Philip Morris, in connection with its libel suit, issued a subpoena to ABC demanding the identity of the confidential source. In late January a Circuit Court judge in Richmond, Va. ordered ABC to reveal the identity of the source to Philip Morris, but the court later granted ABC’s request to rehear the issue. The rehearing was held in early March, and a decision is pending.
Philip Morris also issued subpoenas to airlines, rental car companies and credit card issuers seeking the transactional records of ABC reporters in an effort to identify the confidential source.
(RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp. v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.; Media Counsel: Steven Cherry, Washington, D.C.)