Michael Fumento is a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., and the author of four books and dozens of articles that have appeared in prestigious publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and The New York Times.
He is also a right-wing corporate shill who was fired by the Scripps Howard News Service a couple of weeks ago when it became known that he had once accepted a $60,000 grant from the chemical giant Monsanto, only to later write about the company in glowing terms in his column. He never told Scripps Howard, which syndicated his column, or his readers of his fiduciary relationship with the company.
Fumento's dismissal came on the heels of news that a number of other conservative columnists -- Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Doug Bandow, to name three -- had also taken money to foist the right-wing agenda onto unsuspecting newspaper readers.
When the news of Fumento's downfall broke, it occurred to me I'd heard his name somewhere before. Last week, I finally got around to looking it up. It turned out I was familiar with him because, a little over a year ago, he had written a vicious and hateful column about my good friend and colleague John Hanchette in an obscure quarterly magazine, "American Outlook."
Fumento argued that there was really no problem at Love Canal until Hanchette, then the editor of the old Niagara Falls Gazette, blew the thing totally out of proportion. He went on to charge that the 100 or so articles Hanchette wrote about Gulf War Syndrome for the Gannett News Service had likewise created a mountain out of a molehill.
Characterizing Gulf War Syndrome as a "myth" and Love Canal as a case of "mass hysteria," Fumento branded Hanchette as a dishonest fear-monger.
Not that it bothered Hanchette. He's quite content in his roles as distinguished professor of journalism at St. Bonaventure University and columnist for the Niagara Falls Reporter. His mantel bends under the weight of all the awards he's won for journalistic excellence, including a Pulitzer Prize.
Anyway, since I believe that one of life's greatest pleasures is seeing bad things happen to bad people, I decided to e-mail Fumento and gloat about his descent into ignominy. I told him that, given his positions on Love Canal and Gulf War Syndrome, it wasn't surprising to hear that he was bought and paid for by a chemical company. What sweet irony.
"Time wounds all heels," I reminded him at the end of the brief message.
Imagine my surprise when, nine minutes later, Fumento replied.
He bragged about having "exposed" Hanchette for "lying about a perfectly safe place called Love Canal." The humorless quality of his post was likely the sign of a general depression at having been so publicly disgraced, I figured, and I decided to leave him alone.
But sitting forsaken in his Washington townhouse, Fumento was fuming. He couldn't let it go. Twenty-seven minutes later, he fired off another e-mail.
"Plus, I forgot the real advantage of no longer having a weekly column," he wrote. "I can now pursue my lifelong dream of becoming editor of a pissant (sic) newspaper!"
I was reminded of the "Seinfeld" episode in which George thinks of a witty rejoinder to a competitor's barb only after the meeting has ended and he's driving home. Poor Fumento, I thought. Caught with his hand in the cookie jar and humiliated in front of the entire journalistic establishment, the phone not ringing and the minutes dragging by like hours. "What has brought me to this lowly station?" his pathetic communications fairly screamed.
He's probably thinking about that pistol in the bureau drawer upstairs, I thought. Not that I knew whether he had a pistol, or even an upstairs. But I decided to intervene, anyway.
"Jeeze, Michael, you must be hard up," I wrote.
My intervention proved successful. Fumento immediately fired back another diatribe, blasting Hanchette, the paper and me. If I can just keep him directing his anger outward, I reasoned, the chances of him hurting himself would diminish.
We wrote back and forth until after 1 a.m., and then I made my mistake. In an attempt to bond with the distraught right-winger, I pointed out the fact that we were both writers, veterans, patriots and capitalists.
Apparently, the thought of having anything at all in common with me drove him right over the edge.
His outraged reply said it all.
"Did you go to Iraq last year as an embed only to come back with most of your colon gone and a sh-tbag (sic) hanging off your side?" he demanded. Well, of course I hadn't. But I was hesitant to ask what had happened to his colon, reluctant to force his tortured mind to revisit what must have been the horrible horrors of war. So I simply Googled "Michael Fumento" and "colon." It turned out he'd written about his colon quite a bit.
It seems he suffered the same condition that my business partner, Bruce Battaglia, had a couple years ago. The difference is that Fumento was stricken in Iraq, while Bruce was laid low right here in the Falls.
Another difference is that Bruce doesn't talk about it so much.
|Niagara Falls Reporter
|Jan. 31 2006