Censored: The Leaked ABC Tape

A transcript and QuickTime video of “Tobacco Under Fire,” the provocative TV documentary ABC chose not to let you see.


What you are about to read was killed — twice. First, in March 1994, ABC executives shelved “Tobacco Under Fire,” a documentary for the show “Turning Point,” the same day Philip Morris lawyers filed a lawsuit against the network regarding an earlier expos&eacute on nicotine in cigarettes.

Next, this documentary was smothered with cover-your-butt statements by the same ABC execs. They claimed, for example, that its Emmy-award-winning producers, Martin and Frank Koughan, refused to allow the program to be edited to a shorter length. In fact, ABC owns the tape and could air any part of it on any show tonight. In a final insult to the producers, reporters, viewers — everyone, really — ABC Executive Vice President Paul Friedman called the tape a “boring” rehash.

We disagree. The documentary serves as a good introduction to the tobacco wars. In the past two years, whistleblowers have confirmed much of the information on the tape. And at least one newsbreak has yet to be aired: Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop reveals his disgust after learning of a memo from President Reagan to R.J. Reynolds promising the tobacco industry freedom from any trouble on his watch. Koop explains how Reagan’s trade representatives threatened tariffs in order to open Asian markets to American cigarettes. Even now, most Americans don’t know our government helps push Marlboros on the Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese.

“Tobacco Under Fire” was one of the early battlegrounds in the war between brave journalists and compromised network execs. By showing you the full transcript and QuickTime clips from the leaked tape, do you think we’ve taken sides?

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