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ABC 20/20's John Stossel Admits Fraud

ABC to Apologize for "20/20" Report

So much for reporter John Stossel's unconventional wisdom.

ABC News has announced it will issue a rare mea culpa on Friday's edition of for a fraudulent on-air report by Stossel on the safety of organic foods.

In his "Give Me a Break" segment first aired February 8 and repeated July 7, Stossel asserted organic foods contain more pesticide residue than conventional supermarket foods, and are less safe to eat.

Stossel said his claims were based on tests commissioned by ABC News that revealed "by a small margin, more of the organic produce was contaminated [by E. Coli bacteria] than the conventional stuff." He then concluded by saying that, although the food supply is "pretty safe," organic foods may be "no better and maybe worse" for consumers trying to eat healthy.

Soon after the report first aired, the Washington, D.C., based Environmental Working Group questioned the validity of the story. The group launched its own investigation (a report titled "Give Us a Fake"), which accused the network of faking pesticide tests and debunked each of Stossel's claims.

In a July 31 letter to Westin, EWG President Kenneth Cook wrote: "I am writing to inform you or our conclusion that ABC News does not possess, and has never possessed, the test results Mr. Stossel reported. The reason is simple: we have confirmed with the experts ABC hired for its organic food story that the pesticide test results in question do not exist because no such laboratory tests were ever conducted for ABC News;"

Stossel told the group through his assistant that he would not respond "in any fashion" to their accusations. That is, until ABC announced that Stossel himself will apologize on Friday's broadcast for his mistake, acknowledging that E. Coli tests were never really conducted. While Cook and company has called on ABC News to fire Stossel for his "remarkable breach of journalistic ethics and conduct," an analyst speaking for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting believes he'll most likely stay on the job.

"He'll be disciplined but not in any severe way," said FAIR analyst Peter Hart. "I think the most troubling thing is that EWG released the information in February and ABC was less than interested in looking into it. It's aired twice and only now are they looking at the error. However, we'd rather ABC look at his overall record."

Stossel's been in another recent toxic broiler over a "20/20" report that raised doubts about the real-life Erin Brockovich's research into Chromium 6, which helped a small California desert town win a whopping $330 million settlement against utility Pacific Gas & Electric. Brockovich, whose life story became the basis for the hit Julia Roberts film Erin Brockovich, said Stossel's report was not grounded in fact.