LOS ANGELES — David Horowitz, whose “Fight Back!” syndicated program made him perhaps the best-known consumer reporter in the U.S., has died. He was 81.
KNBC-TV said Horowitz’s death was reported by his wife, Suzanne. The date of his death was not immediately released.
“Fight Back! With David Horowitz” won multiple Emmys and a huge audience as Horowitz investigated product defects, tested advertising claims and confronted companies with customer complaints. It aired on KNBC-TV where Horowitz was consumer reporter for more than 15 years.
At its peak, the program was syndicated on dozens of TV stations across the country. Horowitz also made regular appearances on KNBC newscasts and on NBC’s “Today” show, did radio commentaries and had a newspaper column.
“I don’t consider myself a consumer advocate,” Horowitz told the Los Angeles Times in 1988. “If you’re on television you have to really be broadcasting in the public interest … but you also have to be objective … I do a lot of stories where the consumer’s wrong — where they’re trying to rip off companies, too.”
In 1987, Horowitz was taken hostage during a KNBC-TV broadcast by a gunman with mental problems. The journalist read the man’s statements on camera although the hostage-taker didn’t realize the broadcast had been cut. The weapon turned out to be an empty BB gun.
The experience led Horowitz to join a successful campaign to outlaw realistic-looking toy guns in California.
His reporting was criticized by some consumer advocates and reporters as being too concerned with showmanship and less-serious consumer concerns, such as whether a particular popcorn brand lived up to its advertising.
But the Chicago Tribune noted in 1987 that Horowitz waged successful campaigns to remove life-threatening sulfites from salad bars and to require automakers to install rear window collision-avoidance lights. He was honored by consumer groups and in 1981 became the first newsman to receive the Chief U.S. Postal Inspector’s Award for uncovering mail fraud, the Tribune reported.
Horowitz also took heat for his paid work for Better Books, which offered directories with ads, consumer tips and lists of Better Business Bureau members but collapsed into bankruptcy.
Horowitz was born on June 30, 1937, in the Bronx and held a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Before joining KNBC-TV in the 1970s, he worked for various newspapers and TV stations.
Horowitz also appeared as himself on episodes of “Silver Spoons,” ”ALF,” ”The Golden Girls” and “Saved by the Bell.”
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters and two grandchildren.