Staged footage in ABC News Toyota “test”

Looks like network news departments are up to some of their old tricks. Gawker has the story (“How ABC News’ Brian Ross Staged His Toyota Death Ride”) and followup (“ABC News’ Toyota Test Fiasco”).

In the chapter “Trial Lawyer TV” in my book The Rule of Lawyers (St. Martin’s 2003, not online, why don’t you buy a copy?) I found that not only had the networks seemed to have learned nothing from the notorious 1993 “Dateline NBC” fiasco, they had actually gone back to using some of the same expert witnesses, “consumer” groups and staging techniques that had gotten them in trouble in the first place. So I must say nothing surprises me.

More: Neal Boudette, “Toyota slams ABC News on pedals”, WSJ:

At a news conference, engineering consultants hired by Toyota also showed they are able to cause vehicles made by three other auto makers to rev suddenly by making the same electronic modifications used by a college professor who was the subject of the ABC report, and who testified before Congress last month.

Other coverage: Matt Hardigree, Jalopnik; Washington Post (quoting senior editor Bill Visnic as saying the carmaker “really chipped away at the evidence provided by Dr. Gilbert during the congressional hearings”); Safety Research & Strategies of Rehoboth, Mass., a trial lawyer consulting firm, “funded Gilbert’s test”, according to Business Week; Gilbert’s response at


  • The Rule of Lawyers … available for Amazon Kindle

    Yes, yes, but will be available for the iPad?

  • The old “fake but accurate” gambit. The MSM has no shame.

  • Wait a sec – I saw that report. The engineering professor was quite up front about the fact he’d wired the car to suddenly accelerate. Indeed, he had a big board with wires on it that he showed the camera.

    His point was a simple one, and one that Toyota’s charm offensive has not addressed. His point was this: when a Toyota suddenly accelerates, it leaves no record on the car’s black box computer. Thus, if in fact the cars do suddenly accelerate, we can’t confirm it on the black box. That was the point the professor made.

    Toyota’s fighting a great fight here but it’s against a straw man.

  • Litigator, I would suggest you stick to law and leave engineering to those who understand it.