They have decided they will use their economic clout to try and coerce the network into lightening up its investigation into the severe safety problems that have been discovered in their lethal product. Same goes for suggestions of a cover-up. These guys don't seem to understand that their advertising buy does not give them the right to blackmail a news medium's coverage.

They probably don't comprehend why they should be ashamed. The usual justification, when advertisers try to apply this kind of suppression, is that they are not required to financially support anyone who is making their lives miserable. While that's true, it also demonstrates that they simply don't understand, or don't care enough about, this country's free-press values. It's sometimes an inconvenient bargain: If we are to have commercial TV as opposed to government-controlled media, sponsors are not allowed to substitute their own control.

If anything, there has not been enough information about the mess out there, as evidenced by the thousands upon thousands of Toyota owners who are scared silly. They still don't know how or when to get their vehicles repaired and if the company is finally being straight about what really needs fixing. This is not an image problem, this is life or death.

And yet here are these people, who believe their money can insulate them from the most rudimentary public accountability. They apparently run businesses that demonstrably place profits ahead of their customers' safety. It's not acceptable. Their bullying and/or ignorance cannot be tolerated. It's fundamentally extortion.

Anyone who is still buying a Toyota in that region should reconsider or should certainly boycott the dealers who have signed on to this blatant attempt at intimidation. Why would anyone trust organizations and retailers who take such ethical shortcuts and engage in what amounts to attempted blackmail? After all, what other corners do they cut? Can they be trusted to provide the service they promise or, in their fevered pursuit of the almighty dollar, do they allow their mechanics to do hasty and dangerous repairs, or sloppy maintenance?

The 173 dealers in the Southeastern states cover about 20 percent of the Toyota sales in the U.S. Without a doubt, many of them have the huge stars-and-stripes flags flying outside their showrooms. Considering how UN-American they're acting, maybe they should take them down. 

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