Sunday, January 15, 2006

What Michael Fumento Neglected to Mention

You haven't heard of Michael Fumento? Neither had I, until Business Week revealed that the columnist and fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute had been fired by the Scripps Howard News Service because he had taken $60,000 from Monsanto to say nice things about the company:
In a statement released on Jan. 13, Scripps Howard News Service Editor and General Manager Peter Copeland said Fumento "did not tell SHNS editors, and therefore we did not tell our readers, that in 1999 Hudson recieved a $60,000 grant from Monsanto." Copeland added: "Our policy is that he should have disclosed that information. We apologize to our readers." In the Jan. 5 column, Fumento wrote that St. Louis-based Monsanto has about 30 products in the pipeline that will aid farmers, "but also help us all by keeping prices down and allowing more crops to be grown on less land."
So who does Fumento blame? The media, of course:
"We're in a witch-hunting frenzy now but, as after all witch hunts, people do return to their senses and regret the piles of ashes at their feet," Fumento writes. "Often it happened fast enough the witch hunters found themselves tied to the stake. I do hope that happens here."
Actually, the ashes at his feet are all that remain of his integrity. Fumento never mentioned that he accepted money from Monsanto in his columns or in a book he wrote on biotech:
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. He explained in his recent column that he focused exclusively on Monsanto due to a "lack of space and because their annual report was plopped onto my lap while I was hunting for a column idea."
Are we to conclude that Monsanto wished to remain anonymous? If so, the company crossed the line.
Okay, next question: Where does one draw the line? A PR professional who works to place an oped in a newspaper on behalf of a client (for instance a biotech exec) is doing honest work. A reader can honestly judge the legitimacy of what the exec has to say. A PR exec who writes checks to a supposedly neutral columnist to say what the company thinks has crossed the line -- unless the company insists that the fee or grant be made public.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Standard Operating Procedure, blame the media. I love these guys and their jaded logic. I guess 60 large will make you say anything to protect your investment thesedays.

4:27 PM, January 16, 2006  

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