Toyota Goes After ABC News Report

By kevin 

ABC News and investigative reporter Brian Ross have been delivering the most prominent television reports on Toyota’s recent electronic acceleration system issues. Today, Toyota put on a full demonstration and put out a press release criticizing a specific ABC News report involving professor David Gilbert:

Toyota believes that the public and Congressional committees have been misled by Professor Gilbert’s demonstration and the dramatization of it by ABC News. This has cast unwarranted doubt on the safety of Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

ABC News posted their own report on Toyota’s demonstration:

Toyota today issued a sweeping rebuttal to the findings of Professor David Gilbert, the auto expert who claimed in an ABC News report and in Congressional testimony to have found a possible problem in the electronics of Toyota cars that would mask the source of sudden acceleration.

This evening, ABC News’ David Muir also addressed the Toyota demonstrations and claims during a segment near the top of “World News.” (ABC tells us Ross is out of the country and so Muir was working with the investigative team on the story.)

(More: PRNewser asks “Is It Wise For Toyota PR To Attack ABC News Segment?” At least one PR exec thinks Toyota’s found its “villain.”)

Friday, Gawker called into question video from that original Feb. 22nd segment with Ross reporting on a test of a Toyota vehicle. The segment was revealed to contain footage of a tachometer that had been spliced in from separate footage shot under different conditions. ABC News admitted the editing and reposted the video with new footage and an explanation, though Gawker’s John Cook writes that the footage was still misleading.

Jalopnik reports that, during today’s demonstration, Toyota criticized ABC News for the editing as well.

Toyota also claimed in its release that ABC failed to mention a financial connection between the man who commissioned Gilbert’s report and trial lawyers in litigation against the automaker:

As revealed in their testimony before Congress, Professor Gilbert’s Preliminary Report was commissioned by Sean Kane, a paid advocate for trial lawyers involved in litigation against Toyota and other automakers. Mr. Kane also appeared on the ABC News broadcast in support of the claim that Professor Gilbert’s demonstration revealed a flaw in the electronic throttle control system that could lead to “runaway” Toyota and Lexus vehicles. The relationship between Mr. Kane, Professor Gilbert and the trial lawyers who support Mr. Kane’s advocacy was not revealed by ABC News during the newscast, nor was Toyota offered an opportunity to view the demonstration or given time to respond.

But on the February 23rd edition of “World News,” the newscast following Ross’ initial report, Ross reported on Toyota’s congressional hearing and said, “Some members of congress challenged Professor Gilbert’s findings, citing the $1,800 he was paid by a research group that works with the lawyers suing Toyota.” (More here.)