D.C. FIRM DOES 'POWERFUL STUFF'
FOR CANCER INDUSTRY CLIENTS
From The Cancer Chronicles #21
© May 1994 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
[Most of the information for this article came from a publication called PR Watch, from the Center for Media and Democracy. John Stauber and his colleagues there have done an astonishing job exposing the workings of the secretive public relations industry. --RWM]
Last spring, when produce growers and distributors got word that PBS's "Frontline" was going to air a show on the risk of pesticides to children, the industry signalled their public relations firm, Porter/Novelli, to go into action.
The company¹s "image-control specialists" rushed a rebuttal of the program over to their pro bono client, the American Cancer Society, for whom they have worked for over 20 years. The ACS then promptly issued guidelines to its branch offices on how to answer public inquiries about the show. Not surprisingly, these were based in part on Porter/Novelli's guidelines.
"We were pleased to have that jump on the story," said an ACS official. In an internal memo, ACS wrote, "the program makes unfounded suggestions...that pesticide residues in food may be at hazardous levels." Once again, the ACS rushed to the defense of the pesticide industry.
Later, these same ACS statements were thrown in the face of "Frontline" as "evidence that it had overstated the dangers to children from pesticides," according to Sheila Kaplan, in Legal Times.* It was a coup for Porter/Novelli, and its pesticide-producing clients, including Rhone/ Poulenc, DuPont, and Hoechst-Roussel.
Porter/Novelli also happens to represent the National Cancer Institute; other divisions of the NIH; Bristol-Myers Squibb, the world¹s largest manufacturer of chemotherapy; AZT-manufacturer, Burroughs-Wellcome; the Centers for Disease Control, CIBA-GEIGY¹s Pharmaceutical Division; Johnson & Johnson; the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons; etc.
"No firm seems to have carved a niche quite like that of Porter/Novelli," says Kaplan, "which, besides its government clients, specializes in pro bono work for health-related charities whose endorsements can help its corporate clients." Founder William Novelli defends the company¹s mix of clients. "It was natural to sort of bring them together," he says. "One side wants to sell medication. One side wants to control the disease. These are common objectives‹both sides can benefit."
In cancer, he claims,"³they are all basically interested in the same objective--cancer control--and they are each going about it in a slightly different way. If you can come up with a strategy to bring them all together, you can do powerful stuff for all your clients."
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