Tobacco Whistleblower Barred
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Jeffrey S. Wigand, the tobacco industry whistle-blower portrayed in the movie ``The Insider,'' said Wednesday he was barred from speaking at a state youth-smoking conference because he planned to criticize the governor.
Wigand wanted to air several complaints about Gov. George E. Pataki last Friday, including the governor's recent veto of a bill that would have imposed fire safety standards on cigarettes.
``That caused people to go into apoplexy,'' Wigand said of Health Department officials when they learned of his intent. ``People were actually afraid they were going to lose their jobs.''
Wigand said he made an ``explicit promise'' not to speak critically of Pataki and would instead address the veto issue in a ``dignified and positive way.''
Despite his pledge, Wigand said he was still barred from addressing the teens and was instead taken to a hotel near the Albany International Airport to spend the night.
``I didn't come here to bash Pataki,'' he said. ``If their governor is not doing the right thing, they have a right to know about it. ... This is reminiscent of Brown and Williamson.''
Wigand worked as a researcher for Brown & Williamson Tobacco. He revealed, first to ''60 Minutes'' and then to state officials, the industry's manipulation of nicotine levels in cigarettes and its secret research on nicotine addiction.
Health Department spokesman John Signor denied Wigand's claims that staffers feared losing their jobs over the incident, calling that contention ``baloney.''
``This has nothing to do other than Mr. Wigand's ego,'' he said. ``What has fire-safe cigarettes have to do with youth smoking? Absolutely nothing.''
Signor told The New York Times that Wigand violated an agreement not to inject politics into the event. A spokesman for The Nixon Group, the consulting company that organized the conference, said there was no restriction in terms of what Wigand could say but it was ``very clear'' that he would focus only on his role as a whistleblower and the industry.
Bradley Coulter of The Nixon Group said Wigand was ``clearly off that subject matter.''
As for his fee, Wigand said, ``I'm not sure I'm going to send my bill to them.''