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ABC Settles Lawsuit with Philip Morris

August 21, 1995 GMT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ ABC News settled a $10 billion libel suit Monday by apologizing to Philip Morris Cos. for reporting the tobacco giant had manipulated the amount of nicotine in its cigarettes.

A February 1994 report on ABC’s ``Day One″ newsmagazine charged that tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, ``spiked″ cigarettes with extra nicotine to addict smokers.

Philip Morris denied artificially increasing the level of nicotine above what occurs naturally in tobacco. The company’s cigarette brands include Marlboro, Benson & Hedges and Virginia Slims.

Trial on the lawsuit was scheduled for Oct. 10 in Richmond, where Philip Morris has a large cigarette factory. The company filed the suit in March 1994 in Circuit Court.

ABC denied reports in June that it planned to issue an apology to settle the suit, but spokeswoman Patricia J. Matson said then that the network and tobacco company were talking.

``We now agree that we should not have reported that Philip Morris and Reynolds add significant amounts of nicotine from outside sources. That was a mistake that was not deliberate on the part of ABC, but for which we accept responsibility and which requires correction,″ said a statement released Monday night in New York by Matson at Capital Cities/ABC Inc., the company that owns ABC. ``We apologize to our audience, Philip Morris and Reynolds.″

Circuit Judge T.J. Markow withdrew his order last month that ABC reveal its so-called ``Deep Cough″ source for the story.

The anonymous source, said to be a former manager at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., made the most damaging allegations about the tobacco industry in the report.