The producer of “The Infinite Mind” science and health radio show, says he had no idea that the show’s host was on the receiving end of millions of pharmaceutical dollars.
Bill Lichtenstein tells IB News that he first heard of any controversy when a New York Times reporter called him asking about Sen. Charles Grassley’s revelation that previously undisclosed payments of $1.3 million had been given to the show’s host, Dr. Fred Goodwin.
That is in direct violation of his contract with Lichtenstein, the producer of the show, who distributes it through Sirius Satellite radio on, “NPR Now”. National Public Radio, NPR, has discontinued availability of the program to 300 public radio stations as a result of the controversy.
To emphasize that point, Lichtenstein through his company, Lichtenstein Creative Media, today posted his company’s personal services contract with Goodwin on his Web site.
It says. “Any conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest should be avoided at all costs. This means avoiding any situation where your role on the show as host could be influenced, or might come into conflict with your other professional or personal responsibilities or financial gain … To help insure that you are not involved in editorial material that presents a conflict with your work outside of The Infinite Mind, you agree to disclose to LCM existing and any new business relationships as they occur that could potentially be perceived as representing a conflict of interest with your role as a public radio commentator or journalist.”
“He had a responsibility to tell us,” Lichtenstein says, stopping short of saying he was deceived.
“He withheld information,” he says, adding that the program was set to be terminated at the end of this year anyway because it had run out of funding.
NPR says the radio program was independently produced and neither host nor producer was an NPR employee. NPR employees sign contracts with a strict prohibition on taking anything of value that could even give the appearance of a conflict of interest.
“This is everybody’s worst nightmare,” says Lichtenstein about the impact on journalistic integrity.
“I don’t have an answers as to what a news organization can do. It’s a difficult situation. I feel badly, it reflects badly on journalism. My entire life I’ve maintained the highest levels of integrity in my work and did everything we could to assure this didn’t happen. It happened. It’s obviously bad for journalism.”
LCM has received more than 60 major journalism awards, including a George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting, among others.
Lichtenstein says part of the issue is disclosure, and had he known he would have terminated Dr. Goodwin immediately. They have not spoken since the incident, and Lichtenstein says he cannot image a situation where they would work together again.
Though many of the show’s topics had nothing to do with the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Goodwin and his guests were know to soft-sell medications for children.
That was especially apparent in a program in May 2008. Slate.com reports that Dr. Goodwin's topic, “Prozac Nation: Revisited,” featured four guests who said concerns about Prozac had been “overblown”. Slate reports that all four guests on that show also had ties to Big Pharma.
Lichtenstein says after the Slate article, he confronted Dr. Goodwin point blank and asked him if he was receiving money from some of the drug makers whose products, such as “mood stabilizers” for bipolar children that he endorsed.
Dr. Goodwin reportedly denied the claim.
“I can’t think of anybody who would have a better understanding of conflict of interest,” he says of Dr. Goodwin, who was the former director of the National Institute of Mental Health. “We can only apologize for this breach of trust with our loyal listeners, supporters and public radio stations,” Lichtenstein said in a statement.
In recent months, Sen. Grassley has found conflicts between professors and researchers and pharmaceutical companies. Among them, a Harvard University psychiatrist, considered a leader in the treatment of children, who reportedly took at least $1.6 million from the drug companies that make antipsychotics.
Recently an Emory University professor was revealed to have earned more than $2.8 million consulting for drug companies for over five years. Both men failed to disclose to their universities earnings from the pharmaceutical industry, in violation of their contracts and ethical practices. #