Notes on John Stossel

This weekend, Fox Business Channel host John Stossel taped an episode of his eponymous talk show at George Washington University, where Students for Liberty – a youth libertarian organization – held its fourth annual international conference. Joined on-camera by David Boaz, executive vice president of the CATO Institute, Stossel fielded questions from student attendees on everything from the meaning of the word “liberty” to drug legalization and immigration policy. At one point during the taping, Boaz sharply criticized Mike Huckabee, whose brand of social conservatism is clearly not appreciated by SFL types. What I found interesting, though, is that Huckabee also happens to host a show on Fox — making him one of Stossel’s colleagues.

“I cringed a little bit when David said that,” Stossel later told me. “But I disagree with Huckabee about a bunch of stuff. And the beauty of Fox is, so far,” – he knocked on his wooden podium – “they have not said a peep about both Andrew Napolitano and I saying some things that conservatives on Fox would strongly disagree with.”

Also during the taping, Stossel spoke highly of Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor who is likely to seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Asked if praising a candidate on-air conflicted with any of Fox’s ethical guidelines, Stossel recounted, “Right when I said it, I was thinking ‘Gee – should I be doing that?’ I mean, I’m in a different category because I’m a host of an opinion program — it’s a libertarian television show. If you are Shepherd Smith or one of the guys on Fox during most of the day, when they cover the news as straight as they can, it would be totally inappropriate.”

“I said it about Gary Johnson because he used to bore me to death, and I gave him a hard time about it,” Stossel continued. “And last time I tried to have him on, he was wonderful – articulate, energetic. I don’t know what his speech was like today” – Johnson also spoke at the conference – “but I got newly enthusiastic about him and I really hope he runs for president.”

In 2009, Stossel joined Fox after almost three decades as a consumer correspondent for ABC. Asked whether his new employer allows him greater editorial freedom, Stossel said, “Does a bear shit in the woods?”

I unfortunately don’t have a transcript or recording for the original taping, and I’d bet they’ll edit out the Huckabee and Johnson bits for the broadcast, which is due sometime next month.

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