After ABC News admitted a piece of footage from its Runaway Toyota story was staged and Toyota debunked the method by which the news outlet’s expert created the runaway car, the automaker has now sent a letter to ABC News asking for a formal apology and retraction. And while there’s no mention of a lawsuit, it’s certainly implied, with the words: “Toyota reserves the right to take any and every appropriate step to protect and defend the reputation of our company and its products from irresponsible and inaccurate claims.” Frankly we wouldn’t be surprised to see a lawsuit filed considering the undue fuel this poured on the Toyota recall fire.
To summarize the facts, ABC News ran a story by reporter Brian Ross, entitled, “Expert: Electronic Design Flaw Linked to Runaway Toyotas.” In the story Ross even got behind the wheel of a Toyota, when the expert, Professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University, created a condition whereby the car had an, “unintended acceleration.” The story aired the night before Proff. Gilbert appeared at a government hearing on the issue of recalled Toyota vehicles. Since, Toyota has not only drawn into question Proff. Gilbert’s motivation, as his work was funded by a so-called safety group that receives its funding from law firms (several of which are suing Toyota), but it has also debunked the method by which Proff. Gilbert created the unintended acceleration. In fact, Toyota showed that the “unintended acceleration,” was more of an “intentional manipulation” and that the circumstances by which Proff. Gilbert was able to achieve such a result are, “virtually impossible to occur in real-world conditions.” In addition, Toyota hired experts at Stanford University who were able to replicate Gilbert’s method in a Subaru, Honda, Ford and Chevy.
Toyota claims that ABC News “rushed out the report” to be broadcast the night before the congressional hearing while denying Toyota the ability to review the piece or respond. The letter clearly states that according to Toyota, Ross, “failed in his basic duty as a journalist” by not disclosing the source of Proff. Gilbert’s funding.
For its part, ABC News has responded to the Toyota letter, without apology or retraction, stating that it did in fact let Toyota know about the original “Expert: Electronic Design Flaw Linked to Runaway Toyotas” story before it ran, to which Toyota did not at the time comment on. In addition, ABC news says it was justified in reporting on Proff. Gilbert’s claims just as it was justified in reporting on Toyota’s response.
We have a feeling this isn’t the last we’ve heard on the ongoing tiff between Toyota and ABC News.
GALLERY: Toyota Retraction Letter to ABC News
GALLERY: ABC News Response