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My 2014 interview with Michael Fumento.

Dennis Prager: 'Michael Fumento is a truth-seeker'

Dennis on his radio show Feb 9, 2006: "His first impact on me was [in the late '80s] with his 'Myth of Heterosexual AIDS' [first published as an essay on Commentary magazine, then later as a book].

"I am not happy with the way Scripps-Howard let Michael go."

Scripps-Howard is about the lowest rung syndication network.

Fumento says he's done 150 columns for the service.

Michael: "It doesn't bode well for Hillary Clinton's vast-right-wing conspiracy. It's a left-wing conspiracy. Doug Bandow had a column for Scripps-Howard. He lost his column because he was involved in the Jack Abramoff scandal. [Bandow] was paid per column by Abramoff.

"The Left got an idea. Bandow was rid off because he took money for something he wrote. Let's put together an enemies list. Let's just say they were paid for pieces and let's give them to sympathetic reports. The only two reporters I've found who have taken this is Sharon Waxman at The New York Times [who has not published on the story yet] and Eamon Javers at Business Week.

Cathy Seipp writes in The LAT:

MICHAEL Fumento, the self-described "extremely pro-biotech" journalist who lost his syndicated column after Business Week revealed he'd solicited money from Monsanto, is mad at me. That's because I wrote in my Jan. 19 National Review Online column that he deserved to lose it, and that I'd like to see more criticism of Op-Ed payola from the right as well as the left.

In making his defense, Fumento had written a column (for TownHall.com) that struck me as more of an unwitting self-prosecution. Exhibit A: gratuitous description of Monsanto's "exciting biotech products." Exhibit B: complaint that it should have "meant something" to Scripps Howard News Service that he wrote all his 100-plus columns for free. My God, yes, it certainly should have. Namely, that if the news service wasn't paying for them, someone else must have been.

Fumento says his job is coming to an end at the Hudson Institute in the next month. "A little bit of it has to do with my not having a column anymore. My being involved in this scandal. They know I didn't do anything wrong but there's this taint. There's been scandal involved in his name. That's why Scripps dropped me. They didn't even consult me."

Fumento says it is the practice for fellows at think tanks to solicit corporate money (as Fumento did). "Hudson finally said enough is enough."

Fumento says he lost his job writing for the Rocky Mountain News (owned by Scripps-Howard) after his first book (The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS) was published.

Prager: "There is something frightening going on here where a particularly important columnist, a voice this society can not afford to lose. Apparently you have annoyed enough people that you need to be quieted. I am frightened, not for me, [but for society]."

I called in to Prager's show. I was the first caller on this topic.

Luke: "A journalist can not go soliciting money from people he plans to write about. Michael Fumento asked for money from Monsanto and various agribusiness companies to finance his [2003] book [BioEvolution]. He did not disclose it in his book. It's an elementary matter of journalistic ethics. He should be fired."

Prager: "Who should've fired him?"

Luke: "Anyone who employs him as a journalist. He did something beyond the pale. If I'm going to write about somebody, I can't go to them and ask them for money to write about them. He didn't disclose it in his book and he didn't disclose it in his columns."

Michael: "These rules are new to me. In fact, they are new to everybody. Are you a writer?"

[My answer did not make it on the air.] Luke: "Yes."

Michael: "These rules are new to me. They are new to everybody. That's exactly what Business Week did. They invented new rules and applied them retroactively. I don't care much for retroactive rules. I'm willing to follow rules that are made up before I do something."

I think that these rules are not retroactive. It is elementary journalistic ethics that you do not solicity funds from people you plan to write about.

Michael: "The book took four years to write. I got far less than minimum wage to write it."

Dennis: "In retrospect, you should've mentioned the [Monsanto] grant."

Michael: "Yes.

"The other way the other side [the Left] works is that they do not [concern themselves with truth]."

Fumento keeps painting the issue as a Left-Right debate when it is a matter of journalistic ethics. "Whenever you analyze research, you examine the funding," notes a caller. "For your guest to say that all of a sudden there are new rules...to not disclose your source of funding. Corporations do not give away something for no value. To say that this is a new rule is an egregious misstatement for scholars and scientists."

Michael: "Give me an example of someone who has lost a column for taking a grant seven years ago."

Dennis: "Michael made a mistake. I don't think he should be a lost voice for America."

The way Fumento reacted to Cathy Seipp's critique struck me as screamingly gay. From the first time I heard Fumento on Prager's show (circa 1989), I thought, this man is gay. What kind of straight man (who is a scholar) would publish on his website a picture of himself in a thong? And then take offence at comments people make about his nipples?

Fumento writes: "Seipp posted a photo of me on her website, inviting her readers to laugh. Don't know if I'm in Brad Pitt territory, but does this woman not look like a mouse that drowned in a bottle of Old Milwaukee?"

This is the type of catty remark that gay men make.

Eamon Javers from Business Week writes:

"YOU SHOULD CONTRIBUTE."

In his career at Hudson, Fumento has carved out a specialty debunking critics of the agribusiness and biotechnology industries. In 1999, he says, he solicited $60,000 from Monsanto to write a book on the business. The book, entitled BioEvolution was published in 2003. A spokesman for Monsanto confirmed the payments to the Hudson Institute.

Asked about the payments, Fumento says, "I'm just extremely pro-biotech." He says he solicited several agribusiness companies to finance his book, which was published by Encounter Books. "I went after everybody, I've got to be honest," Fumento says of his fund-raising effort. "I told them that if I tell the truth in this book, the biotech industry is going to look really good, and you should contribute."

The Monsanto grant, he says, flowed from the company to the Hudson Institute to support his work. A portion went to overhead and "most of it" went into his salary. He says the money was simply folded into his salary for that year, and therefore represented no windfall to him personally.

"STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS." The book's acknowledgements cite support from The Donner Foundation and "others who wish to remain anonymous." Fumento didn't disclose the payment from Monsanto either in the book or in at least eight columns he has written mentioning Monsanto since 1999.

Cathy Seipp Thinks I'm A Treasure

Thursday. 1:50pm. My caller ID tells me it's Cathy Seipp. "She's going to chew me out about something," I think as I pick up the phone.

Cathy: "You are a journalistic treasure."

Luke, thinking she's been sarcastic: "How so?"

Cathy: "I can't believe that pompous ass Dennis Prager is frightened for society and that [Michael] Fumento is an important voice.

"I'm glad you called in. Fumento said, 'These are new rules.' That this is on record is fantastic. Amazing. You are truly a journalistic treasure. They should give you a Pulitzer."

Luke: "Prager spent the whole hour on Fumento's plight. Prager said that not disclosing the grant was wrong."

Cathy: "That's not the only thing Fumento did that was wrong. Soliciting the grant was wrong. What is these people's problem?

"Fumento's latest column has two baldly-inaccurate facts -- that Sharon Waxman threatened and bullied me, and that my [publicist] source complained to my editors twice."

Neither Townhall.com (and its ilk) nor the Scripps-Howard news service pay their columnists such as Fumento for syndicating them weekly.

Cathy: "You've got to wonder how is this guy [Fumento] making money?

"If he makes these kinds of factual errors, how many factual errors are there in his science reporting?

"...You were pretty worshipful of Prager?"

Luke: "I've always admired him and that has not changed [even though we may disagree about many things]."

Cathy blogs:

I missed hearing that as it happened, but Luke Ford was tuned in (and transcribing) as usual, and so thanks to him I learned that the pay-for-play columnist's gig with the Hudson Institute may end next month. But even more interesting than that was this astonishing exchange:

Prager: "There is something frightening going on here where a particularly important columnist, a voice this society can not afford to lose. Apparently you have annoyed enough people that you need to be quieted. I am frightened, not for me, [but for society]."

Now Prager remains Luke's great hero, despite warnings from the radio host's lawyer about California's anti-stalking law. But luckily, his calls to the show, which he listens to loyally each day, still get through...

So not only does Prager actually think that Fumento is a crushed voice of dissent, but Fumento claims he's never heard of the notion that journalists shouldn't ask for money from people they write about. Amazing. You know what? Right now, I'll take the moral standards of a porn-obsessed oddball like Luke over these two.