You're never too small (or too late) to smear

March 16, 2006  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Weblog

It waited two months, but my hometown newspaper, the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, has finally gotten around to lying to its readers over why I no longer have a column with Scripps Howard. Or maybe it wasn't a lie. Judging by the accompanying photo of the writer, an alternative hypothesis is that his fingers are too pudgy to allow him to hit individual keys on his keyboard and thus look up anything on the Internet. In the event, here's my response:

Publisher John Foreman, in his March 12 column, "Political interference knocks informative column out of paper," begins by writing that I (and another columnist) "have been in the news themselves a bit of late, and readers deserve some information and explanation." Stunningly, in my case, he provides only misinformation.

Foreman writes that the Scripps Howard News Service "has severed its ties to Michael Fumento [because I] apparently wrote a number of pieces flattering to the giant Monsanto Corporation without disclosing a flagrant conflict of interest. As it turns out, Fumento had solicited a $60,000 Hudson [my employer, Hudson Institute] grant from the company."

"Apparently?" Foreman couldn't check the Internet to find out what really happened, rather than smear a hometown columnist whom he himself praised as "an excellent analyst on the issues."

In fact, the grant was solicited for and received in 1999 as support for my book BioEvolution. It was folded into my Hudson salary and exhausted that year. Five years later my Scripps column began. Of the well over 100 columns I wrote for Scripps, only three so much as mentioned Monsanto -- one in only a single sentence. The third column appeared this year.

Insofar as agricultural biotechnology is one of my main fields of interest, that's probably sub-par. In any case the idea that a book grant received and spent in 1999 not being disclosed in a 2006 column is a "a flagrant conflict of interest" is absurd.

What's flagrant is Scripps' cowardice in dropping my column without even consulting me when Business Week called and bluffed that they were going to do an expose. Had Scripps told Business Week to shove off, as Hudson did, there would have been nothing to expose.

Unfortunately, the mere thought of criticism terrifies Scripps. It was also they who ordered me fired me from the Denver Rocky Mountain News in 1991, the day my controversial AIDS book appeared.

Knowing all this, my largest Scripps newspaper, the New York Post, continues to carry my column even as I'm smeared by one of the smaller ones.