Michael Stevenson, a cab driver/printer/clerk, is a near-fanatical advocate of veterans’ welfare, by his own account. He’s been waging a one-man war against an East Coast appliance store chain that uses combat footage in its TV spots--in Stevenson’s view denigrating soldiers who died in action. So when Ed Glavin, an associate producer on “The Morton Downey Jr. Show,” called to invite Stevenson to appear, he was “thrilled to death.”
When show time came, however, Stevenson was surprised to find a lawyer on stage attacking his position, and Downey tossing in his own put-downs. Stevenson felt humiliated, he told us, and all six of his kids “were very hurt” by his treatment.
But it was after the taping that Stevenson, from Tiverton, R.I., (pop. 13,526), really got upset. Backstage, next to a fax machine, he found a copy of a letter producer Glavin had sent to the combative lawyer. Under a letterhead bearing Downey’s trademark Big Mouth, the letter reads, in part:
Tonight’s guest (on the “Mad as Hell” segment), Michael Stevenson, is an Army veteran (actually Navy), who is mad as hell at an advertising firm using real war footage to sell VCR’s and TV’s.
I want you to interrupt and say who cares, it’s no big deal ... the guy is a real dimwit ... he shouldn’t be too hard to make a fool of....
After learning that Stevenson had a copy of the letter, senior producer Peter Goldsmith called and apologized. Nonetheless, Stevenson has consulted an attorney, claiming that the Downey show “misrepresented” its intentions and deliberately set him up.
Goldsmith (professional pseudonym Zebra Davis) told us that Glavin--who’s no longer with the show--"overstepped his bounds and did a stupid thing. Sure, it was a mistake. It was bad for the show, which we don’t need.”
Goldsmith insisted that the Stevenson matter was an isolated incident: “We don’t have to set people up. That’s not the nature of our show.”