In an effort to "punish" ABC News for their coverage of Toyota's safety problems, dealers in five southeast states have pulled their commercials off local ABC TV affiliates, the network reported Monday on their Web site.

Instead, dealers moved their commercials to non-ABC stations in the same markets, "as punishment for the reporting," an ABC station manger said.

The shift was due to "excessive stories on the Toyota issues," the ad agency representing the 173 dealers told ABC affiliates last week, the network reported.

Brian Ross, ABC's chief investigative correspondent, and ABC News started reporting on the "runaway Toyotas" last November — several months before the rash of recalls by the company.

Toyota has already recalled more than 7 million cars for repairs in the U.S. and other countries over a sticky accelerator and floor mats that can get caught in the gas pedal.

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