January 2006 Archives

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Why do people continue to lie about me being "a columnist for hire?"

By Michael Fumento

I asked one, a blogger. "Insofar as you've posted my response to Cathy Seipp's piece in NRO, you know that I received a book grant in 1999 that ran out in 2000 and my column began in 2003. Could you please explain to your readers how that makes me a "columnist for hire."

His response: I'm "a congenital asshole," a "dipshit," and I'm "without substance or class." Hmmm... Have things changed that much since I left LA that swearing at people is now a sign of class? In any event, in a sense I did get my answer.

January 31, 2006 11:00 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Media

Read Seipp's column -- with a careful eye

By Michael Fumento

Cathy Seipp has a commentary in Sunday's LA Times of which I don't entirely approve but nonetheless deserves reading, regarding our earlier back and forth in National Review Online and what brought it all about.

What I don't care for:

First, it's hard to tell to what extent she's kidding when she reverses my statement that the Scripps Howard syndicate that so gladly accepted over 100 columns from me for no pay dropped that column without even telling me, much less asking me for my side of the controversy. She says it makes it clear that if Scripps wasn't paying me, obviously somebody was. Well yes, my employer, Hudson Institute. Fact is, while virtually all syndicated columnists are paid something almost none can make a living at it. That should hardly bring suspicion down upon their heads.

Second, she takes issue with my talk of a witch hunt because "there never were such things as witches." As an aside, there are and were. There are Satan worshippers, though few in number, and there are Wiccans who worship nature and call themselves witches. But mostly she misses the point that people were burned and hanged because of accusations of witchcraft. Practicing it had nothing to do with it. Likewise, there truly is a serious effort underway to impugn writers innocent of nothing more than having the "wrong" political leanings.

Finally, regarding me, it seems a bit of a cheap shot to say I'm a "self-described extremely pro-biotech'" journalist. I've been writing pro-biotech articles since 1993. I published a 500-page book on it that was far longer before the editor took a cleaver to it, wrote chapters for two others books on it, and I've written close to 50 (!) pieces on biotech. That practically puts me in fanatic territory.

Yet her piece is worth reading for what she says about the New York Times reporter Sharon Waxman, who has gone completely out of control in her pursuit of conservative and free market writers and PR firms. She writes of one case in which there:

"Began a series of calls from Waxman to a self-employed PR person she suspected was the person who'd offered [Seipp money to write a piece] in which she threatened to burn him (by contacting his other clients, all small, nonpolitical businesses) if he didn't cooperate -- by telling her things she wanted to know about the big company that was the focus of her article. She also said that he'd better not tell me or anyone else about this conversation or the deal was off, and tried very hard to make him believe that I'd given up his name, which, of course, I hadn't."

Says Seipp,

"When journalists go from keeping secrets about sources to expecting sources to keep secrets about them, something in the media has begun to stink with self-importance."

I found her source and confirmed what Seipp wrote. Waxman engaged in blackmail pure and simple and should be fired immediately by the New York Times. Waxman, Ms. Seipp, is witch hunting.

But of course, as we learned from the Jayson Blair incident (which was really a very long series of incidents) the Times doesn't work that way. Its stock is collapsing like a house of cards under the weight of a bull elephant and it wants a hot story. Ideologically, it wants to emasculate the right. And as always, from the days of Stalin apologist Walter Duranty, the Times has felt itself above reproach. Merely having Waxman on the payroll is a breach of journalistic ethics. For all of our disagreements, I'd hope Miss Seipp and I agree on that.

January 29, 2006 08:18 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Media

Another "non-discriminatory" disease

By Michael Fumento

I was flacked today by a PR agency declaring in the subject line, "Breast Cancer Doesn't Discriminate" and then stating in the body, "Statistics show that although African American women have a lower rate of breast cancer compared with white counterparts, their mortality rates are at least 9 percent higher."

In other words, in two very important ways breast cancer DOES discriminate. Is nothing so important that it's safe from political correctness?

January 26, 2006 05:15 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Diseases (other than AIDS and cancer)

And the hits just keep on coming! This from TNR Online.

By Michael Fumento

Paul Thacker writes in his Jan. 26 article centering on Fox columnist Steve Milloy:

"Earlier this month, BusinessWeek Online reported that, in 1999, Scripps Howard columnist Michael Fumento received $60,000 from Monsanto, one of the biotech companies he later covered in his columns, to help pay his salary at the Hudson Institute and to cover some of the overhead of his book BioEvolution. Fumento had not disclosed the Monsanto money to Scripps Howard." But the book grant was made in 1999 and covered me for a year, while I began my Scripps column in 2003. So the statement as presented is false and misleading. Until BusinessWeek Online invented the rule and applied it retroactively, it would never have occurred to anyone including Thacker that it would be a violation of journalistic ethics to not disclose a book grant in columns that appeared four, five, and six years later. If so, I'd like Thacker to announce exactly what the cut-off point is and who declared it as such. I care neither for ad hoc nor retroactive rules.

Regarding my being on the advisory board of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, I had already written books or op-eds favoring every position the Coalition took so it was natural they should invite me and I should accept. But I was just a name on a list, providing no advice and receiving no compensation. The day Mr. Milloy told me it received tobacco money and asked if I wanted to resign I said yes. I have never received tobacco money or support of any kind either directly or funneled through any organ.

January 26, 2006 04:54 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Media

"Journalist ethics" an oxymoron at the LA Times

By Michael Fumento

In his Jan. 21 column, "Writers' Opinions for Hire," LA Times media critic Tim Rutten makes a claim against me regarding my dismissal from the Scripps Howard News Service that's both libelous and false.

The news of my dismissal from Scripps broke in the January 13 Business Week, available online, full-text, and free. Nobody has added additional material to the story except me, in my Townhall column explaining what really happened. While the Business Week "news analysis" has severe factual problems of its own, nowhere does it state any words to the effect, as does Rutten, that I "had accepted payments from Monsanto for writing opinion pieces favorable to its bio-tech business."

It says I solicited a single book grant from Monsanto in 1999 that went to my think tank employer which then paid me salary. Writer Eamon Javers did make the bizarre insinuation that a book grant from 1999 should be disclosed in columns written in 2006 -- and presumably forever. But his entire focus was on disclosure, not on paid-for-columns.

If people think they can make a damning case against me on those grounds, let 'em try. But last I checked you're not allowed to simply add false information, no matter how convenient it may be. Unless, I guess, you work at the Los Angeles Times.

January 25, 2006 10:37 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Media

13-year-old newsflash! Cell phones are safe!

By Michael Fumento

It was 13 years ago, writing in Investor's Business Daily, that I became the first reporter in the country to present evidence that cell phones have no link to brain cancer. Now the biggest study ever on the issue has been released and it finds . . . cell phones have no link to brain cancer. Was I a genius? No, everybody else involved was just plain dumb. And this makes an especially good example of the incredible poverty of health and science reporting in the country, then and now.

It started when Larry King invited a man onto his show who claimed that since his wife developed a fatal brain tumor three months after she began using a cell phone and the tumor began on the same side of the head as she held it, the cancer simply must have resulted from phone emissions.

Yes, it really was that insipid. And it set off a panic. I had to point out that, believe it or not, people were getting brain tumors before cell phones were ever invented. I further noted that the American Cancer Society says 17,500 brain cancers are diagnosed each year, of which about two thirds are fatal, and already at that time about 4% of the population was using the type of cell phone that had an antenna attached to it (as opposed the older types with antennas on the car). That meant simple chance dictated 180 cell phone users would die of brain tumors. Larry King left unaccounted for 179.

Further, I had to point out that brain tumors simply don't manifest in three months. In fact, the average time from what's called the "insult" to diagnosis is nine years. Averages are just that, but three months? What an utterly bizarre claim. Yet no other reporter in the country bothered to look for these numbers, either because they didn't have the brains or they didn't have the integrity to dig up the evidence they knew would kill their own stories. Either way, trust me, nothing has changed with them.

January 21, 2006 07:21 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Diseases (other than AIDS and cancer)

Now BW's Eamon Javers Can Read Minds

By Michael Fumento

In his latest "news analysis," Business Week's Eamon Javers concludes, "The money didn't influence his [my] writing, he adds. His syndicate, Scripps Howard, felt differently. On Jan. 13 it canceled Fumento's weekly column."

So now Javers is telling us what went inside the minds of the people at Scripps Howard. Perhaps he's mastered the Vulcan mind meld. Scripps Howard canceled my column without even consulting me. They did so because they didn't want to risk bad publicity -- a rather straightforward explanation -- NOT because they felt that a book grant to my my think tank from 1999 influenced a column I began writing for Scripps in 2003, or specifically one that appeared in 2006. But as I wrote earlier, Javers just makes it up as he goes along.

January 21, 2006 10:20 AM  ·  Permalink  ·  Media

Body Armor Blather

By Michael Fumento

Kudos to Michelle Malkin for handing Hillary Clinton's head to her over the issue of body armor for our troops. Having spent just a little more time in the stuff than the New York senator and having done so in Iraq on some very hot days, I can say that there are real limits to simply piling armor on even if it does provide more protection. And that's the inherent problem. Ingenious fixes aside, more armor generally means more weight and less mobility. It's not so much the Kevlar layers but the ceramic plates inserted into them. When soldiers get too hot or tired, they remove not what is least important but what is most heavy and simply most accessible. As to mobility, I found out about that before I even left for Iraq when I tried firing a rifle from the prone position and found my thick Kevlar neck guard pushed my helmet forward making seeing--much less firing--essentially impossible. (Some of the newer helmets take care of this problem.)

To some extent, training can overcome the weight factor. I trained so hard in armor and heavy ruck I could have done ballet in them--were I able to do ballet. But no amount of training compensates for the added heat. It was that extra heat that contributed to my colon rupturing and practically killed me. Insofar as nobody shot at me or blew up an IED near me, in my case body armor was not a life saver but almost a life taker.

So take heed. This is a complex issue, as 140,000 troops in Iraq understand but as Hillary appears not to.

January 11, 2006 11:13 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Military

So much for that "50%" avian flu fatality rate

By Michael Fumento

In my Weekly Standard "Fuss and Feathers" piece of 21 November 2005, I ripped the "50% death rate" experts claimed avian flu victims suffered.

"First, all avian flu deaths so far have occurred in countries with medical systems that are dismal compared with ours. Would you choose a Cambodian hospital to treat your flu? Second, that more or less 50 percent death rate comes from those ill enough to require medical attention--the sickest of the sick. Our experience with normal influenza is that many who become infected have no symptoms at all, nary a sniffle. So we know the numerator, but without the denominator it's useless."

Almost two months later, researchers reporting in the Archives of Internal Medicine found "Our epidemiological data are consistent with transmission of mild, highly pathogenic avian influenza to humans and suggest that transmission could be more common than anticipated, though close contact seems required." If I knew that, why didn't top health officials and pseudo-expert Laurie Garrett? Either they did and decided not to let us in on the secret or they didn't. Neither answer is reassuring.

January 10, 2006 08:18 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Diseases (other than AIDS and cancer)

The "microscopic" terror threat

By Michael Fumento

Scripps Howard columnist Paul Campos, best known for his columns and book claiming that obesity is actually good for you, is now "weighing in" on terrorism. The University of Colorado law professor labels it a "microscopic risk." Maybe he's looking through the wrong end of the microscope, but he's hardly alone in his sentiments. It's a sad fact that the longer our government keeps us safe, the more cache people like Campos have. It's as if to keep these people out of denial, we need a 9/11 every 9/11. If you'd asked 100 Americans on September 12, 2001 whether we would be free of terrorist attacks at least until 2006, 100 Americans would have declared you nuts. Yet here we are. This is probably the greatest accomplishment of the Bush Administration but because it's a non-happening instead of a happening, nobody notices. What a sad reflection on our society.

January 5, 2006 04:07 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Terrorism

Nobody here but us embryonic stem cells

By Michael Fumento

I have repeatedly written that efforts to downplay the importance of adult stem cells often go so far as to even deny their existence, even though they've been curing people since the 1950s, now cure or treat over 70 types of cancer, cure or treat myriad other diseases, and are involved in over 900 clinical trials. Here we go again. Rick Weiss, writing in the Washington Post about the Korean embryonic stem cell scandal, declares on page A1 of the newspaper: "The scandal also has delivered a body blow to stem cell science, a field of research born just seven years ago . . ." He's not even correct about embryonic stem cells. They were first discovered in rodents in the 1950s but researchers then, as now, found them so difficult to work with that the first human embryonic stem cell line was created only in 1998, and it's to that which he refers. There is no hint in the article that any other type of stem cell -- fake or otherwise -- exists.

January 2, 2006 02:16 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Stem Cells