ABC's token contrarian John Stossel appeared on Friday's "Good Morning America" to promote his new "20/20" special on some very politically incorrect subjects. In the process, he got into a bit of a dust-up with GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo, telling the son of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, "And I know in law school and in your political family, you believe good things only happen because government passes laws." [Audio available here]
Stossel appeared on the morning show to discuss one of the topics on his special, airing Friday night at 10pm on ABC. Among other subjects, he will argue that it was wrong for the government to make it illegal for employers to fire a woman because she is pregnant. After showing a clip of the piece, Cuomo skeptically questioned, "...This law was created for a reason, that women were discriminated against. That's why they passed the law in the '60s." Cuomo, whose brother is currently the Democratic Attorney General of New York, challenged, "Why open the door to giving a corporation a way out?"
This prompted Stossel to retort, "All of these laws are created for a reason. And what I've learned in 40 years of consumer reporting is for every person they help, they hurt 100." The "20/20" co-anchor followed up with his quip about "your political family." The GMA host may not have appreciated thecrack, as he then quizzed Stossel: " ...In your world, in Stossel's world, not of law and politics, you say, 'Hey. I hear you're pregnant. Great. This is your last day. Take care.' That's okay?"
Quite calmly, Stossel responded, "Two pregnant people work for me. I wouldn't say that. If you're a good worker, you ought be there. But, government shouldn't say, you, you, you're special. You're a lawsuit-bomb."
Stossel's special will delve into other politically incorrect topics, including whether people who do reckless things and need rescue should be required to pay the costs of the emergency crew. He will also question the effectiveness of endangered species bans and whether America does too much for the elderly (in regards to Medicare).
A transcript of the May 8 segment, which aired at 8:17am, follows:
CHRIS CUOMO: We all know these are tough economic times. And many pregnant women are feeling a unique kind of pressure. They worry their jobs are at stake while they take time off to be with their newborns, even though law clearly protects them. Well, tonight on "You Can't Even Talk About It," a special edition of ABC's "20/20," John Stossel takes a provocative look at whether pregnant workers should be protected by the law. Is that right?
ABC GRAPHIC: Working While Pregnant: Should Moms-to-Be-Have Job Protection?
JOHN STOSSEL: That is right. Does the law do more harm or help? Suppose a woman's pregnant. She's going to miss work. There's some things she can't do at work. It may cost the company money. So, should the company be allowed to pay her less? Or even fire her? In America, I'm not even supposed to say that. Carrie Lukas is a working mom, vice president of the Independent Woman's Forum. She's a writer. And sometimes she's on TV debating issues.
CARRIE LUKAS (Vice President, Independent Woman's Forum): [On "Hannity"]: These lawsuits, I don't think are going to accomplish much.
STOSSEL: Last summer, Carrie became pregnant, again.
LUKAS: This will be my third maternity leave in four years. And it does mean I have to take time off.
STOSSEL: America's laws now make it illegal for her boss to use that fact as an excuse to cut her pay or fire her. Kerry says that's wrong.
LUKAS: If my employer decides they no longer want me as an employee, then it should be their right to fire me. I understand the desire for people to have government step in to protect women. But there's a real cost to government intervention.
STOSSEL: These costs are rarely talked about publicly. But, it is a fact that once Congress creates some special, protected groups, some employers avoid hiring people who fall into those groups. For example, after the Americans for Disabilities Act became law, it was assumed more disabled people would enter the workplace. But, that didn't happen. A study by economists at M.I.T. found employment actually dropped sharply. Likewise, the pregnancy act can create problems for women.
LUKAS: Sometimes the laws that are intended to help women like me, actually end up hurting women like me. All of a sudden, a potential employer is looking at me and thinking, she just might turn around and sue us. That makes it less likely that I'm going to get hired.
STOSSEL: Because you're kind of a lawsuit bomb.
LUKAS: Exactly. When you do things like create discrimination laws, you raise the cost of hiring a woman like me.
STOSSEL: And while some pregnant women work harder than any man, Lukas says, let's be honest. Most pregnant women impose costs on employers.
LUKAS: A lot of responsibilities are shifted. Each time I go to a doctor's appointment, that means that I'm unavailable to do whatever work needs to be done during that time. Which means one of my colleagues is often picking up the slack.
CUOMO: Now, the seminal plaintiff in this case against Novartis, $200 million suit, why does Novartis say they fired her?
STOSSEL: You know, I don't even know anymore. They say it had nothing to do with her being pregnant, because that would be against the law. They claim to have reasons.
CUOMO: Now, isn't that the point that you're going to get here? That this law was created for a reason, that women were discriminated against. That's why they passed the law in the '60s. We know that these types of grievances are up because people still do this to women. Why open the door to giving a corporation a way out?
STOSSEL: All of these laws are created for a reason. And what I've learned in 40 years of consumer reporting is for every person they help, they hurt 100. And I know in law school and in your political family, you believe good things only happen because government passes laws. But I say voluntary is better. And if you have a flexible workforce, where employers are free to negotiate with employees and employees don't have to work there. That helps more workers.
CUOMO: So, you- in your world, in Stossel's world, not of law and politics, you say, 'Hey. I hear you're pregnant. Great. This is your last day. Take care.' That's okay?
STOSSEL: Two pregnant people work for me. I wouldn't say that. If you're a good worker, you ought be there. But, government shouldn't say, you, you, you're special. You're a lawsuit-bomb.
CUOMO: You think they said it for a reason? Or was it random and arbitrary?
STOSSEL: They're trying to make money. I don't- I mean, Novartis?
CUOMO: You think the law created the law [sic] for a reason?
STOSSEL: There's always- we want to help people. We're going to save these people. We don't do it to enrich our fellow lawyers. We're just helping.
CUOMO: "20/20" tonight- [Segment abruptly cuts to commercial]