Politics & Policy

Seipp’s Snipe

Bad business.

When I lost my column with the Scripps Howard News Service, I knew many liberals would be dancing in the streets. I knew they’d take the charges against me in Business Week’s “news analysis,” false as they were, and distort them further to make a ho-hum story (the mainstream media virtually ignored it) into “The Scandal of the Century!”

What I didn’t know was that the most malicious and false attack would appear on NRO.

Written by Catherine Seipp , it states “Fumento has long been suspected of accepting money from corporations he so admiringly opines about in his better-living-through-chemistry pieces, and now we all know for sure.”

Excuse me, but “has long been suspected?” By whom? Seipp’s terminology is code for: “There’s no evidence.” If she had any, certainly she’d have provided it.

As for her accusation that I do “better-living-through-science” pieces, just maybe that’s because, I’m primarily a science and health writer. To me it’s the most exciting field in journalism, such that it drew me away from a law career that began with a degree from a top-25 law school whose graduates last year averaged starting salaries of $125,000. If I’m so money hungry, I must be even more stupid than I am greedy.

True, science writers often praise the products and research of industry; but isn’t corporate-bashing why God created liberals?

Moreover, I repeatedly criticize specific industries when they deserve it. My first magazine cover story, in National Review in 1987, was a detailed expose of the Archer Daniels Midland Corporation. The grant that led to the current brouhaha was from the Monsanto Company, yet within months of that award I charged Monsanto with being “chicken-hearted” for caving into environmentalists.

What about the “now we all know for sure” line?

Read the Business Week piece. It takes three whole minutes. Nowhere does it say I took money for any column or story. It says I solicited a grant from Monsanto for a biotechnology book I was working on. (It doesn’t say, but should, that such solicitations from philanthropies and corporations are the general rule for writers of policy books.) It says my think-tank employer accepted the grant and paid me a salary while I worked on the book.

Using a bizarre set of rules that writer Eamon Javers made up on the spot, applied specifically to my circumstances, and then made retroactive, Javers decided–bizarre though it sound–that a book grant received in 1999 should be disclosed in columns written in 2006–and presumably forever.

He hung his grease-lined hat totally on the issue of disclosure. Nowhere did he claim I took pay for columns, though I don’t doubt his headline was meant to imply it and that he hoped many readers would stop reading at that point.

Seipp also uses my firing from Scripps Howard as evidence of guilt, but made no inquiry into the circumstances–that Scripps acted solely upon receiving a phone call from Javers. I wasn’t even consulted. That’s not evidence of my guilt, but of their cowardice.

Seipp’s attack on me is all the more stunning in that she herself, in her piece, claimed she was falsely accused by New York Times writer Sharon Waxman of taking pay-for-play. Did it not occur to her that if she were falsely accused, others might be too?

Not incidentally, the day after she attacked me she blogged that the New York Times gave her hell for revealing Waxman’s witch-hunting activities and that she now regrets having helped her.

Do they “think they are both above the rules and can also make them up for other people?” she asks of them in astonishment. Yes they do, just like Eamon Javers did. Why is that suddenly news to Cathy Seipp?

Waxman also called me, in December, and under the same pretenses. She first leveled a groundless accusation against me and then sought my cooperation in nailing others. I gave her no information on anybody but me. (Though how she’ll twist it when she finally writes her piece remains to be seen.)

Seipp’s “betrayal” blog entry, as well as a column I wrote about the attack on me, shows how truly vicious the witch hunters are. I reported that, after Doug Bandow lost his column albeit for reasons having nothing to do with his right-wing beliefs, leftist groups “realized they might eliminate more of their critics by simply accusing them of being paid corporate shills, and then siccing the media on them to see what they could dig up.”

Lefties will be automatically passed over, as was New York Times “economist” Paul Krugman’s “extra-curricular paychecks over the years” as NRO and others have reported. Just as blacks can’t be racists we’re told, liberal writers can’t be corporate stooges.

I could go on about the additional odd snipes at me on Seipp’s blog, but I’ll concentrate on what appeared on NRO since blogs don’t have editors but NRO does. And I would have expected more from a magazine that I have contributed to–both the print and online versions–for two decades. Surely they knew an attack on me from the right would have vastly more impact than one from the left. They had a special duty to make sure Seipp could back up every charge leveled; a duty they forsook. Further, never should accusations be allowed comprising nothing more than someone has “long been suspected,” even if the target is Al Gore or Al Franken.

This is a time to band together against the witch hunters, not to succor those who aid them. The ultimate purpose of the hunt is not to remove individuals but to weaken the entire conservative and free-market movement. As my case shows, innocence is no defense. We either present a united front or we watch as, one by one, we’re each led to the stake.

Michael Fumento is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute.

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