Bartz presents his view that not only “big pharma” but “big media” are in a vast conspiracy to hoodwink the public about the Tylenol murders—seven in 1982 and one in 1986. [Link to transcript]
The business and general press has swallowed hook, line and sinker J&J’s “spin” that some mad person spiked Tylenol capsules after they had left J&J facilities although there is credible evidence that the poisonings originated internally, Bartz told Franchi.
Bartz worked for J&J eight years and claims he knows far more about the distribution practices of the company than was ever revealed to the media. He was planning to publish his book, “The Tylenol Mafia,” last summer but said he found some new leads that required more investigation. He now has about three-quarters of the “endnotes” of the book completed.
When finished, it will have more than 1,400 endnotes and a bibliography of more than 400 sources.
The Tylenol murders were in the news recently when the FBI said it would seek DNA samples from “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. He has refused to provide them.
Bartz said this just reinforces the “spin” that a mad person from outside the company was responsible for the murders.
Prof. Tony Jacques of RMIT University, Melbourne, and Prof. Bolanie Olaniran of Texas Tech have faulted J&J for marketing Tylenol in capsules that could be easily spiked.
They say J&J was especially culpable after seven people died via poisoned capsules. The company rushed into the market five weeks later with “tamper-resistant” packaging as though the packaging was at fault, they said.
Jacques quoted Olaniran in the Winter 2010 issue of PR Journal on the PRSA website as saying that J&J should not have waited until the murder of 23-year-old Diane Elsroth “before replacing the demonstrably vulnerable capsules with tamper-proof solid product.”
Bartz told Franchi that major media, hungry for the ad dollars of J&J, have played along with J&J’s tale of innocence.
The chief angle pursued by media was whether the 1982 murders would hurt sales of Tylenols. They rebounded to their previous levels.
J&J has refused for many years to discuss the Tylenol murders. VP-PR is Ray Jordan, a member of the Arthur W. Page Society and PR Seminar, and a trustee of the Institute for PR.
When J&J hit the news in 2010 after about 288 million of its items were recalled because of various complaints and imperfections, media said they were surprised at such a PR mishap because J&J had set the “gold standard” for handling crises and had a squeaky-clean reputation.
The Financial Times of London on Nov. 1, 2010, commenting on the product recalls, said that ever since 1982 “J&J’s decisive action (after the murders) has been held up as the model of corporate crisis management.”
J&J initially confined the product recall to two small lots that had distribution in the Chicago area and did not order a nationwide recall until at least five days after the murders were linked to poisoned Tylenols. The company, disavowing any connection with the murders, offered a $100,000 reward for information on the perpetrators.
The New York Times May 3, 2010, in a story by Natasha Singer, praised J&J for its “fast and adept” handling of the 1982 murders.
The Christian Science Monitor said Jan. 15, 2010 that J&J’s behavior in 1982 is still regarded as “a shining example of corporate social responsibility.”
The Economist said April 10, 2010 that J&J/Tylenol is the “gold standard of crisis management.”
Advertising Age columnist Al Ries said May 3, 2010 that the Tylenol brand is “so strong that even seven murders could not inflict much damage on it.”
The Motley Fool (fool.com) said May 6, 2010 that J&J “has always been the poster child for how to handle a crisis.”
Fortune magazine on May 28, 2007 devoted a page to J&J/Tylenol said it set the “gold standard in crisis control.”
Tactics of PRSA, in a full-page feature in 2009, said J&J’s actions were “an enduring example of crisis management done right.”
J&J, which is made up of about 250 companies, has sales of $61.6 billion and profits of $13.3 billion. It is one of the most profitable companies in the Fortune 100.