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ABC denies ’20/20′ bias allegations

ABC News adamantly denied suggestions the executive producer of “20/20” has rejected or discouraged stories on nuclear energy and the environment because of his wife’s ties to the nuclear industry.

Current and former “20/20” staffers contend that Victor Neufeld, the show’s executive producer, has squelched such stories since he took over the show in Feb. 1987, reported Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, the New York-based watchdog group.

Neufeld’s wife, Lois, runs Media Access Inc., a public relations firm whose clients include the U.S. Council for Energy Awareness, which is financed by the nuclear industry, FAIR reported in Extra!, its newsletter.

Rocky Flats flap

New York City-based FAIR said Neufeld turned down a story about safety problems at Colorado’s federal Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant before the story blew up as a national scandal, and canceled a segment on “jumpers,” technicians who absorb high amounts of radiation.

FAIR said Neufeld, in response to a request for an interview, said he and his wife “have separate and independent careers and have always maintained a strict code of conduct that reflects only the highest ethical standards of my profession.”

ABC News spokeswoman Liz Noyer denied the FAIR allegations in the strongest terms.

Story called ‘irresponsible’

“The allegations of collusion between Victor and Lois Neufeld are not only totally baseless, they’re very irresponsible,” Noyer said.

“Every week Victor Neufeld and the producers of ’20/20′ have to make editorial decisions about what goes on the air. There are discussions, disagreements, brainstorming — all of this goes on, and decisions have to be made about what is appropriate for that particular show.

“Victor is very satisfied with his editorial decisions.”

FAIR said its report was written by Karl Grossman, a journalism teacher at the State University of New York who writes on media coverage of nuclear power and environmental issues. He conducted more than 125 interviews in a three-month investigation, FAIR said.

“Karl Grossman is clearly an advocate with anti-nuclear sympathies,” Noyer said. “If FAIR or any other organization, for that matter, wants to look at the whole of ABC News’ coverage of nuclear issues, we welcome that.”

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