ABC NEWS, August 29, 2001
Controversial article on West Nile Virus by Nicholas Regush
Air pollution thesis for West Nile epidemics 
by Jim West


Background

April 2001, about five months before the article was written and published, Nicholas Regush, producer/journalist, contacted me, having been referred by the medical critic, David Crowe.  We then began many lengthy discussions over the phone and in his office at ABC's Manhattan headquarters.  These continued for a year, and eventually I became one of the first columnists to write for his website, "Red Flags Weekly".  I helped reconceive his website structure as a hierarchical format, from his previous blog format.

From the start, Nicholas was generous and open in the discussions.  We had an affinity, with common insights and humor.  He told of many experiences that lead to his visceral revulsion for the mainstream medical propaganda system, his conversations with CDC reps, doctors and virologists.  I also gained insights into writing and editorial processes and the politics of mainstream media.

He described his career, and how he got to ABC.  He wanted to quit ABC because, as one example, the "New Standards" which had been issued at that time, which tightened restrictions for those who would challenge industrial propaganda.  He had great respect for the people who worked at ABC, especially Peter Jennings (deceased 2005).  Nicholas' ABC column, "Second Opinion", was a rare, if not unique, column, within mainstream media.

One of our meetings included the talented virologist, Howard Urnovitz.  We three had an enthusiastic, laughing, discussion at ABC and continued with luncheon at a nearby restaurant.  Howard and I focused on discussions about polio virology and toxicology.  He had just recently followed my toxicological and virological critique of polio in Townsend Letter (6/2000) with with his own critique of polio virology (4/2001).

Nicholas had plans to get this work presented on World News Tonight, and other high profile shows.  He presented my work to "the top brass" (his phrase) at ABC, e.g., Jennings, and other executives.  He said that they would present the story if we could find a medical authority, a doctor, who was willing to get involved.  I likely could have found some medical people, but I did not try much, because I felt enough would be served, safely, with just Nicholas' article.  The politics seemed too hot to warrant further incursions on the medical industry's territory (this world). I suspected that in spite of Nicholas' experience, he was in ways somewhat split within his own mind insofar as media politics, with a fascination of the bigger artsy picture of media politics versus the simple scientific truths.

He defended mainstream media corruption as mere laziness, describing typical journalists as people who each morning read The New York Times, and move with those stories as the Times presents them.  Yet media influence on journalists is well documented and he was well aware of that.  He wanted to stay away from the HIV/AIDS controversy as that could attract negative political forces.

Nicholas worked like the policeman who loudly sounds the siren as he approaches the crime scene, allowing the criminals time to prepare, or leave by time he arrives.  At first, I was disenchanted by this approach to important scientists, of whom I had prepped him.  But then there is a wisdom to his method, no doubt.  He saw it as being up front completely with his interviewees, telling them right away that there was a scandal in the making and that their words may find their way into print.  He made clear to me his status of "being ABC" and knowing that those he sought to interview had an obligation to return his calls.  He said everyone always returns his phone calls.  However, that changed with his investigation into West Nile.  For one, Dr. Marcelle Layton (expert on WNV) didn't return his phone call from the NYCDOH.  And the NYCDOH questioned Regush at such length when he had requested an interview with Layton, that he told me, "I finally told them, hey, I'm supposed to be interviewing you people, not the other way around!"

The article was written in a few days, with him reading it to me over the phone as if it featured me -- Jim West this and Jim West that.  I thought he was not quite on the level, didn't say anything, and my suspicions turned out to be so.  Apparently he wanted to avoid my complaints about being substantially omitted from the article.  Unfortunately, this approach meant I would not read the actual final revisions before it went to print and thus there was a loss of final consultation, a loss of refinement, ideas and fact checking, though the article was still adequate.  Mainly, I was just glad the article was published under the big name banner, ABC, and I would leave quibbling, which never happened, to later.  

Nicholas told me that the vetting process took three hours, and that this was because the ABC lawyer was apparently fascinated with the subject, not necessarily the legal issues, which were safe.

One item, that the virus filter was much larger than WNV, was David Crowe's contribution, which I passed to Nicholas.  David's name was left out, and after David and Nicholas conversed, David eventually became a valuable contributing author to Nicholas' website.

Note that adjacent and right to the article (shown below) there is a strange, dark, highly negative advertisement, by United Health Foundation.  It is black and gray and the lower half (not shown here) is blinking on and off, once per second.  I suggested to Nicholas that this might have been strategic, and he replied that such was impossible as the space was rented months in advance.  I thought about this and never did have the opportunity to present my response, which is that, the ad content is not rented months in advance, but the ad space is.

I also found my website URL was misrepresented, which surprised Nicholas.  He had that changed quickly, but too late as the peak readership period was over.  I had notified Nicholas that there were other odd errors in the article, which made it difficult to get to my website; I received only a small rise in website traffic, and few inquiries by email.  His own email and website received a huge increase, several thousand inquiries, and extraordinary hits directly on ABCNEWS were estimated from that.  He said that the article received a tremendous response from the readership, and that the article was one of the most widely read he had ever written for ABCNEWS.

He was a brave, honest and skilled producer/journalist.  His success though, created a mountain upon which he stood and was required to defend against petty orthodox minds, sometimes even in court.  ABC continues to maintain Regush's article online, though without the top photo and original ad space. 

Nicholas died in 2004, Montreal, age 59, of a massive heart attack, lingering on for two weeks in a hospital.  I had noticed earlier that despite his knowledge of medical issues and alternative views, his diet was non-organic, e.g., preserved meat sandwiches, etc.  Approximately two years before he died, he was telling me about his slow-healing knee injury sustained while playing basketball in a gym across the street from the ABC headquarters.  I replied (to get him back on the subject of West Nile), half-jokingly, that it was probably a symptom of a stroke due to the notoriously heavy air pollution in that area of NYC, just north of Times Square.  He showed alarm and we returned on topic.  He admired Peter Jennings (deceased), saying he was the epitome of honest journalism.  I thought Jennings was kept in place with rumors of homosexuality (mainstream media), and by "protective" employees.

Thanks for being a generous teacher and friend, Nicholas!


 

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