“Can you say ‘Give me a break?’” asks an awfully elated female college student, imagining the first thing that would come to her mind in a face-to-face encounter with ABC’s John Stossel. “Are you ready to get Stosseled?” asks a friend, so pumped that she’s making up verbs. Meanwhile, eight rows away, the legend himself—with his hair abnormally haggard and his trademark mustache as bushy as ever—walks in nonchalantly with little to no fanfare from the crowd, aside from the faint and subtle sound of a few girls gasping in delight.
For whatever reason, the 61-year-old journalist for “20/20” seems to have a minor cult following, made evident by the packed house inside one of Loyola’s largest lecture halls. Perhaps it’s his gimmicky “Give me a break!” line or his gloriously thick mustache (rivaled only by Geraldo Rivera’s), but Stossel appears to be one of the few beloved right-wingers for lefty college students, along with Ben Stein and the oft-joked-about Chuck Norris. Stossel’s speech is entitled, “The Clueless Media: How the Media Keeps Getting Things Wrong,” but it may as well be titled, “Libertarianism Forever: Why Government Regulation Can Suck It,” because all his points come back to one theme: “All these regulations hurt far more than they help.”
Evidentially, this thinking has left him despised where he works in Manhattan and in newsrooms, both notoriously occupied by left-wingers. “Somebody came up to me on the streets in New York and said, ‘Are you John Stossel?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘I hope you die soon,'” Stossel says, leaving the crowd laughing at the mere thought that someone would want John Stossel to die. The College Republicans who occupy the first three rows are dressed sharply and are more than open to bash activist government programs, but some surely squirm when Stossel starts berating the merits of the War on Drugs. “Our government says nicotine and heroin are equally addictive, but nobody’s knocking over Seven-11s to get Marlboros,” he says. After a ten-minute segment carefully ripping apart the morality of tort lawyers, Stossel opens it up for a short Q&A, and a third-year Loyola law student is the first to the microphone. “He’s very courageous…I’ve been smearing him the whole speech,” Stossel says. “No, deservedly so! Everything you said was absolutely correct,” the student quickly replies, with a touch of regret and repentance in his voice, as if he had been sinning for so long, and a skinny, hairy messiah of libertarianism has finally shown him the light. (Andy Seifert)