Michael Fumento

Michael Fumento

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Michael Fumento is an investigative journalist, attorney, and author of five books, admired by some and cricized by others as a bigot and conspiracy theorist. A former paratrooper, he embedded a total of four times in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s best known for science and health issues, especially what he considers faux crises from the “heterosexual AIDS explosion” in 1987 to swine flu to the alleged epidemic of runaway Toyotas. In 2006, Scripps Howard News Service terminated their relationship with Fumento when it was revealed that he had failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest while writing opinion columns about the Monsanto Company during the time that he was a fellow of the Hudson Institute
Hudson Institute
The Hudson Institute is an American think tank founded in 1961, in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, by futurist, military strategist, and systems theorist Herman Kahn and his colleagues at the RAND Corporation...

, an American think tank which had received money from Monsanto.

Science Journalism


In addition to AIDS
AIDS
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

, Fumento's writing on science have covered other such topics as global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

, ADHD, obesity
Obesity
Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems...

, the health dangers of breast implants, teen drug use, and Agrarian utopianism. He has been highly critical of what he considers extreme alarmism
Alarmism
Alarmism is excessive or exaggerated alarm about a real or imagined threat e.g. the increases in deaths from infectious disease.-See also:* 2009 flu pandemic* European sovereign debt crisis* 2012 phenomenon* Climate change alarmism...

 over such diseases as SARS, and the potential of a human avian flu
Avian flu
Avian influenza, sometimes avian flu, and commonly bird flu, refers to "influenza caused by viruses adapted to birds." Of the greatest concern is highly pathogenic avian influenza ....

 pandemic. Fumento argues that many reports of threats to society are based on bad science and egregiously misused statistics (see junk science
Junk science
Junk science is a term used in U.S. political and legal disputes that brands an advocate's claims about scientific data, research, or analyses as spurious. The term may convey a pejorative connotation that the advocate is driven by political, ideological, financial, or other unscientific...

).

A common theme is his claim that many liberal environmental groups have a hysterical response to most man-made chemicals. He writes that naturally occurring food chemicals are often every bit as toxic as artificial compounds, and there is no scientific reason to view natural compounds as inherently safer. Environmental groups, he holds, will willingly accept claims that man-made compounds cause cancer, but gloss over the fact that the toxicity tests often involve quantities millions of times larger than any human being would ever ingest. Several of his articles deal with the agricultural chemical Alar, banned as a carcinogen
Carcinogen
A carcinogen is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer. This may be due to the ability to damage the genome or to the disruption of cellular metabolic processes...

 in the United States; Fumento notes that the dosages in one Alar study were the equivalent of almost 30 thousand apples a day for life. In his view, it is impossible to test megadoses of chemicals on mice or rats and extrapolate the results to conclusions about small doses on humans. The statistical nature of these studies, often analyzed by non-statisticians, leaves them vulnerable to extrapolation error. Researchers remain divided on the utility of such tests and on the safety of Alar in particular.

He also has been a frequent critic of activist Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich-Ellis is an American legal clerk and environmental activist who, despite the lack of a formal law school education, or any legal education, was instrumental in constructing a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California in 1993...

 since her eponymous movie first appeared in 2000.

Fumento describes himself as a political conservative. He has drawn criticism from liberal and veterans' activist groups for his views on Gulf War Syndrome
Gulf War syndrome
Gulf War syndrome or Gulf War illness describes a medical condition that affected veterans and civilians who were near conflicts during or downwind of chemical weapons depot demolition, after the 1991 Gulf War. A wide range of acute and chronic symptoms have included fatigue, musculoskeletal...

, (His Reason article “Gulf Lore Syndrome” was a National Magazine Award finalist in 1998) and for his writings since 1987 which stated that the threat of AIDS
AIDS
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

 to the heterosexual population was greatly overstated. He promotes a position of "skepticism
Skepticism
Skepticism has many definitions, but generally refers to any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere...

" towards claims that man-made chemicals cause cancer in humans.

Fumento has been outspoken in his support of adult stem cell
Stem cell
This article is about the cell type. For the medical therapy, see Stem Cell TreatmentsStem cells are biological cells found in all multicellular organisms, that can divide and differentiate into diverse specialized cell types and can self-renew to produce more stem cells...

 research and critical of embryonic stem cell research, criticising what he regards as a liberal and corporate bias in favour of the latter.

Fumento also supports hydrogen fuel cell
Fuel cell
A fuel cell is a device that converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent. Hydrogen is the most common fuel, but hydrocarbons such as natural gas and alcohols like methanol are sometimes used...

 technology.

For Science Under Siege he received two awards, including the American Council on Science and Health
American Council on Science and Health
The American Council on Science and Health is a nonprofit organization founded in 1978 by Dr. Elizabeth Whelan that produces peer-reviewed reports on issues related to food, nutrition, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, lifestyle, the environment and health...

's "Distinguished Science Journalist of 1993".

Heterosexual AIDS


Fumento is perhaps best known for his epidemiology
Epidemiology
Epidemiology is the study of health-event, health-characteristic, or health-determinant patterns in a population. It is the cornerstone method of public health research, and helps inform policy decisions and evidence-based medicine by identifying risk factors for disease and targets for preventive...

 work, especially infectious disease
Infectious disease
Infectious diseases, also known as communicable diseases, contagious diseases or transmissible diseases comprise clinically evident illness resulting from the infection, presence and growth of pathogenic biological agents in an individual host organism...

 outbreaks. He argues that the perception of such outbreaks becomes exaggerated or otherwise distorted by those who exploit them to serve various agendas.
In November 1987 he published a landmark article, “AIDS: Are Heterosexuals at Risk?” in Commentary
Commentary (magazine)
Commentary is a monthly American magazine on politics, Judaism, social and cultural issues. It was founded by the American Jewish Committee in 1945. By 1960 its editor was Norman Podhoretz, a liberal at the time who moved sharply to the right in the 1970s and 1980s becoming a strong voice for the...

 which in 1990 became the basis of a controversial book, The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS: How a Tragedy Has Been Distorted by the Media and Partisan Politics He has written dozens of subsequent pieces since the book. In Commentary, he challenged the presumption that, as Life magazine’s July 1985 cover declared in bold red letters, “Now No One Is Safe from AIDS.”
By 1987, the theme had become common. A January U.S. News & World Report
U.S. News & World Report
U.S. News & World Report is an American news magazine published from Washington, D.C. Along with Time and Newsweek it was for many years a leading news weekly, focusing more than its counterparts on political, economic, health and education stories...

cover story declared, "The disease of them is suddenly the disease of us . . . finding fertile growth among heterosexuals." A New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

  headline that month read: “AIDS May Dwarf the Plague,” citing remarks of then-Secretary of Health and Human Services, Otis R. Bowen
Otis R. Bowen
Otis Ray Bowen, M.D. is a retired U.S. politician and physician. He served as the 44th Governor of Indiana from 1973 to 1981 and as Secretary of Health and Human Services from 1985 to 1989.-Early life:...

, that AIDS could be worse than the “Black Death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

”, estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe's population. Surgeon General
Surgeon General of the United States
The Surgeon General of the United States is the operational head of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and thus the leading spokesperson on matters of public health in the federal government...

 C. Everett Koop
C. Everett Koop
Charles Everett Koop, MD is an American pediatric surgeon and public health administrator. He was a vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and served as thirteenth Surgeon General of the United States under President Ronald Reagan from 1982 to 1989.-Early years:Koop was born...

  made remarks giving rise to the term “heterosexual AIDS explosion.” Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer and philanthropist. Winfrey is best known for her self-titled, multi-award-winning talk show, which has become the highest-rated program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011...

 told her audience, “Research studies now project that one in five – listen to me, hard to believe – one in five heterosexuals could be dead from AIDS at the end of the next three years.”

Fumento challenged that orthodoxy, for which he and even those who wrote about him were condemned and even threatened. He did so by interviewing and citing the work of epidemiologists, including the top Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are a United States federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services headquartered in Druid Hills, unincorporated DeKalb County, Georgia, in Greater Atlanta...

  (CDC) AIDS epidemiologist, Dr. Harold Jaffe, who told him, "Those who are suggesting that we are going to see an explosive spread of AIDS in the heterosexual population have to explain why this isn't happening."

Although he would be accused of claiming heterosexuals have no AIDS risk, the back cover of his AIDS book states, “The ‘myth’ of heterosexual AIDS consists of a series of myths, one of which is not that heterosexuals get AIDS. They certainly do get it . . .” Rather, he argued that while white middle-class heterosexuals were the target of AIDS propaganda, “. . . the profile of the typical victim of heterosexually transmitted AIDS is a lower-class black woman who is the regular sex partner of an IV drug user.”

As of 2007, the CDC’s “estimated numbers of cases and rates (per 100,000 population) of HIV/AIDS,” was 60.6 for black women, while only 3.3 for white ones.
In a theme discussed in Commentary and greatly expounded upon in his book, Fumento described various agendas served by promoting "AIDS hysteria". These included a media catering to its primarily white, heterosexual, middle-class audience and homosexuals and their sympathizers who believed the disease needed to be “democratized” in order to spur more research funding. “On the opposite side of the spectrum Christian fundamentalists deploy it in order to underline their vision of morality,” he wrote in Commentary. He also discussed this in a 1988 New Republic
The New Republic
The magazine has also published two articles concerning income inequality, largely criticizing conservative economists for their attempts to deny the existence or negative effect increasing income inequality is having on the United States...

 cover story.

In 2009, the CDC reports, there were 12,860 HIV infections through heterosexual contact.

Monsanto controversy


On January 13, 2006, Scripps Howard News Service announced it would terminate its business relationship with Fumento and cease carrying his column. At issue were opinion columns Fumento had written concerning the biotechnology firm Monsanto Company while working at the Hudson Institute
Hudson Institute
The Hudson Institute is an American think tank founded in 1961, in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, by futurist, military strategist, and systems theorist Herman Kahn and his colleagues at the RAND Corporation...

. The connection between Fumento and Monsanto was first revealed by an investigative reporter in Business Week. General manager Peter Copeland explained that Fumento
did not tell SHNS editors, and therefore we did not tell our readers, that in 1999 Hudson received a $60,000 grant from Monsanto. [...] Our policy is that he should have disclosed that information. We apologize to our readers.


After the story was published, Fumento acknowledged that he benefited from Monsanto's grant to Hudson:
It was a $60,000 book grant to my employer, solicited back in 1999, which was applied to pre-established salary and benefits.

However, Fumento said Scripps Howard had no such policy and that the syndicate canceled his column merely upon receiving a phone call from Javers, without consulting him. Moreover, such a policy wouldn't make sense, he said, because it presumes once you’ve benefited from a grant you are considered forever in the donor's debt.

Affiliations


Fumento has been affiliated with the following organizations:
  • Independent Journalism Project - Director
  • US Commission on Human Rights - AIDS analyst and attorney for the Commission
  • Washington Times - legal writer - later freelancer
  • Atlantic Legal Foundation
    Atlantic Legal Foundation
    Established in 1977, Atlantic Legal Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest law firm with a history of advocating for individual liberty, limited and efficient government, free enterprise, sound science in the courtroom and school choice...

     - science adviser
  • Rocky Mountain News - editorial writer in Denver.
  • American Enterprise Institute
    American Enterprise Institute
    The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is a conservative think tank founded in 1943. Its stated mission is "to defend the principles and improve the institutions of American freedom and democratic capitalism—limited government, private enterprise, individual liberty and...

     - Resident Fellow.
  • Competitive Enterprise Institute
    Competitive Enterprise Institute
    The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a non-profit think tank founded on March 9, 1984 in Washington, D.C. by lobbyist Fred L. Smith, Jr to advance economic liberty and fight over-regulation by big government...

     - He was listed on the Institute staff in 1994 with the Warren T. Brookes Fellow in Environmental Journalism
  • Consumer Alert
    Consumer Alert
    Consumer Alert was an American non-profit organization which advocated on business and consumer issues. It was primarily funded by corporations. It was founded in 1977 by Barbara A. Keating-Edh and John Henry Sununu, who would later go on to become Governor of New Hampshire and White House Chief...

     - 1995-96 - Science and Journalism Fellow
  • Reason
    Reason
    Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

    - science writer
  • Hudson Institute
    Hudson Institute
    The Hudson Institute is an American think tank founded in 1961, in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, by futurist, military strategist, and systems theorist Herman Kahn and his colleagues at the RAND Corporation...

     - senior fellow from 1998 to 2006
  • National Journalism Center
    National Journalism Center
    The National Journalism Center, established in 1977 by conservative journalist M. Stanton Evans, runs programs and internships for journalism students to help them to become professional journalists, and to educate them on topics which relate to conservative political issues and values.-...

  • Investor's Business Daily - "National Issues" Staff writer/later freelance
  • The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) On Advisory Board
    • TrashTalk Bulletin Board - Also run by TASSC and Steve Milloy. He is a friend of Milloy
  • Business Week - columnist
  • Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
    Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
    The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow is a conservative Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization whose stated mission is to promote free market solutions to environmental problems...

  • Philip Morris
    Philip Morris USA
    Philip Morris USA is the United States tobacco division of Altria Group, Inc. Philip Morris USA brands include Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Benson and Hedges, Merit, Parliament, Alpine, Basic, Cambridge, Bucks, Dave's, Chesterfield, Collector's Choice, Commander, English Ovals, Lark, L&M, Players and...

     - He wants an "arms-length relationship with the tobacco industry" (writing articles on passive smoking
    Passive smoking
    Passive smoking is the inhalation of smoke, called secondhand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke , from tobacco products used by others. It occurs when tobacco smoke permeates any environment, causing its inhalation by people within that environment. Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke causes...

    )

Freelance contributions

  • American Spectator
  • Categorized in 2000 Report by American Council on Science and Health
    American Council on Science and Health
    The American Council on Science and Health is a nonprofit organization founded in 1978 by Dr. Elizabeth Whelan that produces peer-reviewed reports on issues related to food, nutrition, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, lifestyle, the environment and health...

     (ACSH) as a "Columnist on the Political Right"
  • Tech Central Science Foundation or Tech Central Station
  • TownHall.com
    Townhall.com
    Townhall.com is a web-based publication primarily dedicated to conservative United States politics. It was previously operated by the Heritage Foundation, but is now owned and operated by Salem Communications...

    - "Frequent guest" - Iraq war correspondent, (His explanation for the Monsanto deal was at: but the link is now defunct)

Books

  • The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS: How a Tragedy Has Been Distorted by the Media and Partisan Politics, Regnery Publishing, 1993, ISBN 0-89526-729-2
  • Science Under Siege: Balancing Technology and the Environment, William Morrow & Company, 1993, ISBN 0-688-10795-8
  • Polluted Science: The EPA's Campaign to Expand Clean Air Regulations, AEI Press, 1997, ISBN 0-8447-4041-1
  • The Fat of the Land: The Obesity Epidemic and How Overweight Americans Can Help Themselves, Viking, 1997, ISBN 0-670-87059-5
  • BioEvolution: How Biotechnology Is Changing Our World, Encounter Books, 2003, ISBN 1-893554-75-9

External links