BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Michael Fumento, author of "The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS." In the introduction of your book, you write that this book came very close to never being published. It was rejected by several publishers, not because there was a basic disagreement with the facts, but because, as one editor put it, `I'm not convinced that the argument or the cause of curing AIDS for those who have it or are afraid it--to have it is best served by publishing this in book
Mr. MICHAEL FUMENTO, AUTHOR, "THE MYTH OF HETEROSEXUAL AIDS": Well, we actually had two publishers that came right out and said, `We don't want to see this published because of the ideas contained therein.' And then many others said, `Well, we don't think it will sell,' this, that and everything, and so you wonder about those, but at least two did say that and, in fact, now that the book is published, we're having a tremendous difficulty getting stores to stock it. There was a boycott campaign started before the book was even in print, letters were circulating telling stores, `Please do not stock this book,' and it's having an effect. This is now the most publicized book in America, and it's also one of the most difficult to get ahold of.
LAMB:Why is--why is this the case?
Mr. FUMENTO: This is the most highly charged political subject I have ever seen, and in--I'm comparing that to abortion, the death penalty, perhaps not the Vietnam War, but obviously that's not a current issue. There's no--no issue that gets people more angry, more emotionally charged, more willing to do things they might not be willing to do for any other subject than the subject of AIDS.
LAMB:I want to come back to that, but I want to just ask you to give us a premise of what--what's the thesis of the book?
Mr. FUMENTO: The thesis is not that heterosexuals don't get AIDS--of course they do. They get it from needle sharing primarily. They used to get it from hemophilic clotting factor. They used to get it from blood transfusions. They get it from having sex with people in those categories and with bisexuals. The myth is that this is a disease that is going epidemi--epidemiologically from hetero to hetero to hetero, that it has broken out into the hetero ranks, that it will break out in the hetero ranks. We--we had enough data pretty much to refute that a couple of years ago, and that by 1990, it's quite solid.
LAMB:Where are you personally at this point in the whole process of promoting your book?
Mr. FUMENTO: I'm doing a tour for the book right now.
LAMB:Where have you been so far?
Mr. FUMENTO: I've been to Toronto, New York, Boston and now Washington.
LAMB:What's the reaction, and are there programs that won't talk to you about this book?
Mr. FUMENTO: Unfortunately, of course, there's always programs that--that don't, you know, want authors on, for whatever reason. What I've been seeing is programs that have been booking me--and in two cases, programs that actually came out to my hometown, Denver, and went through great time and expense to film me, and then when that film got back to Hollywood or wherever, then a decision was made not to show me. So I've had, I think, five shows now that have pulled out on me.
LAMB:Can you tell us what shows they were?
Mr. FUMENTO: One was "Good Morning America." They pulled out. I was scheduled there for about a week, and suddenly they called and said, `No, we don't want him anymore.' "McLaughlin" show--they have three shows. I was scheduled for one. They pulled out.
LAMB:What about those that already taped you and--and then they didn't use you?
Mr. FUMENTO: OK. Fox TV's "A Current Affair." Now to date, they haven't said, `Oh, we're definitely not going to show him,' but I was scheduled for January 22nd--for several weeks ago, and didn't come off as scheduled. The reasons they gave were contradictory, and it's weeks later now and they still haven't shown it.
LAMB:Do you think all this is because of the subject of the book?
Mr. FUMENTO: Oh, definitely. Well, my agent said--my publicist said that on average, he'd have about one show that would pull out for a perfectly legitimate reason, which leaves basically four shows that would not. Yeah. It's so highly charged. Last year, Forbes magazine did a profile on me, the June 26th issue, and two copy editors walked out rather than work on the piece, which simply doesn't happen with any other issue. Eight days later, after the piece appeared, there was a picket of the magazine by a group called the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, and they got the publisher, Malcolm Forbes, to back down and print a retraction. You wouldn't see this, I don't think, on any other subject under the sun.
LAMB:What about the reviews? How have they been?
Mr. FUMENTO: They've been generally positive on the epidemiology, saying, `Well, he's--he's got a good point here. It's not breaking out and people said it would.' Having said that, I think, in general, that they're still negative, and the reason is because the people reviewing my books are--my book are the same people that I was criticizing in the book. Over and over and over, it's the AIDS industry people that are grabbing the review, the--the--the opportunity to do it. It's like if I had done a book attacking communism and it was being reviewed by Communists. What kind of reaction would you want?
LAMB:I know in the introduction you say that the most often asked question you get is: How did you ever get interested in AIDS? So let me be the 937th. How did you get interested in this?
Mr. FUMENTO: It actually goes back before AIDS. It goes back, interestingly enough, to missing children. In the early '80s, we were told that there were two million missing children each year, that 100,000 were being forcibly kidnapped, that thousands, maybe tens of thousands were being killed in horrible ways by--by strangers with thin moustaches. And it turned out, in fact, that in 1984, which is the--the big year of the missing child scare, there had been apparently 57 forcible child abductions. It was all nonsense. I knew it was at the time, but I was too young really, too inexperienced as a journalist to do much about it. But that really in--it really showed me what the media can do, how they can terrify the American public with virtually nothing to go by.
By the next year, I saw it happening with AIDS. By '85, we saw the first wave of the heterosexual AIDS fear. By '87, we saw the second largest wave, and at that point, I just--I said, `I can't take this anymore. I'm going after these people.'
LAMB:Where are you now living? Do--what are you working--where are you working?
Mr. FUMENTO: I live in Denver, Colorado, and I'm really working on promoting the book full-time now.
LAMB:You don't have a full-time job other than this.
Mr. FUMENTO: No.
LAMB:It's so--in some story I read, they said that you were an editorial writer for the Rocky Mountain News. Were you at one point?
Mr. FUMENTO: Yes, I have been until just a few weeks ago.
LAMB:Did you work for The Washington Times at one time?
Mr. FUMENTO: For pretty much four months or so back in '87.
Mr. FUMENTO: I was the legal affairs reporter.
LAMB:Where is home originally? Where did you go to school and what did you study?
Mr. FUMENTO: I'm from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and my undergrad degree was in political science, and then I got my …doctorate, my law degree, from the University of Illinois, and I started in journalism really, though, back in 1980 when I was in the Army, so I've been a journalist about 10 years as well.
LAMB:Where was your first job in journalism?
Mr. FUMENTO: That was in the Army. About my last year in the Army, I became a--a newspaper reporter for the base paper, and then I became the editor of the brigade paper.
LAMB:What'd you do after you got out of the Army?
Mr. FUMENTO: Went straight to law school.
LAMB:Out of law school.
Mr. FUMENTO: A place called the Legal Services Corporation in Washington.
LAMB:What'd you do there?
Mr. FUMENTO: We were in charge of trying to make sure that the people that we distributed our money to, to help poor people did, in fact, help poor people with the money, which is a--a problem to this day.
LAMB:What did you do then?
Mr. FUMENTO: From there, I went to The Washington Times for four months and, from there, to the Civil Rights Commission where I was their AIDS analyst, and I stayed on there for a year.
LAMB:How did you become an AIDS analyst at the Civil Rights Commission?
Mr. FUMENTO: I had just written an article for Commentary magazine called AIDS: Are Heterosexuals at Risk? It was my first really article on AIDS, although I'd done book reviews earlier. And it--it was--even before it was in print, it was catching a lot of attention, enough that these people who were looking for an AIDS analyst, basically a right of center AIDS analyst, because they're right of center there--conservative. They heard about me and--and interviewed me. At that time, they were actually kind of suspicious. They had believed, basically, the things I was writing against, but I think I convinced them that that wasn't the case, and they hired me.
LAMB:What is a Civil Rights Commission?
Mr. FUMENTO: It's a panel of people appointed jointly by the president and by the Congress to, on a project-by-project basis--my project being AIDS--to come up with a series of recommendations.
LAMB:Who was the head of the Civil Rights Commission when you were there?
Mr. FUMENTO: When I began, it was Clarence Pendleton. He died while I was there.
LAMB:And how did you get a job there?
Mr. FUMENTO: It was--as I said, they had gotten wind of the article that I had done. They were looking for somebody on AIDS.
LAMB:I didn't ask the question right. Was it a political appointment...
Mr. FUMENTO: Oh.
LAMB:...or was it a straight government hiring?
Mr. FUMENTO: It was a government hiring. I wasn't a political appointee.
LAMB:And how long were you there?
Mr. FUMENTO: A year exactly.
LAMB:And what happened after that?
Mr. FUMENTO: Well, this interestingly has to do with C-SPAN. I had done an--a--a chapter of the book ahead of time to get publishers interested, and it so happened the chapter was on AIDS and conservatives. And conservatives are just one group, and I'm not speaking for all conservatives--I'm conservative--to the extent that they were alarmist. They have used this disease to bash homosexuals, to try to portray them as the rats and the lice of what they cu--you know, call the new black death and, at the same time, to try to bring back traditional values and--and morality: chastity, sex strictly within a marriage.
And--and my objection to that is I have nothing--nothing against traditional morality, but trad--traditional morality doesn't include lying. You can't lie to people but do--to get them to do something that's moral. And the fact is that most heterosexuals are at very low risk. And so I pointed this out in the book chapter, and this book chapter was made far ahead of time into an article in The New Republic magazine, which has an overlap with New Republic--public--the publisher of my book.
So they ran the article and they put it on the cover. In fact, they liked it a lot. And C-SPAN saw that article and they wan--they scheduled me for the show and I was just about to go to it when the executive director of the Civil Rights Commission, who is a political appointee--not Clarence Pendleton--she called me and said, `I hear you're going on C-SPAN. I just heard you've done this article. You are not to go on this show.' And I said, `Excuse me. I am a government employee. I have First Amendment rights here.' And she said, `No, you're not supposed to go on that show. You are to call them up. You are to tell them that--tell them whatever you want. Don't tell them I didn't tell you to go on.' And so the upshot was, this is my first appearance on C-SPAN. Somebody else from New Republic did that show.
Then I thought my direct boss in the general counsel's office would back me up against the executive director. I was sure he would. But he called me into his office and he told me exactly what his boss had said. `You had no right to write this article. You have criticized friends of the commission, people that we need on our side, people in the Reagan administration.' And I protested again. Well, first of all, there was no connection in that article to me as a civil rights employee. You would never have known from the article. Second of all, I do have First Amendment rights. I'm not trying to be belligerent here or anything but--but I do have rights. I--the article's written, there's nothing I can do about it, and--and I think I'm protected.
No--they came to the conclusion that, no, I wasn't. Basically the First Amendment, as it applied to me, was that anything we agree with you can write, and if we disagree, you can't. And I think that's a little bit of a distortion of what the First Amendment's about.
So I went on vacation at this point, as I was scheduled to, came back two weeks later and was told immediately, `You're no longer working on the AIDS project,' and I was put basically into a hole checking cites on other people's articles.
LAMB:What year was this--what month and what year?
Mr. FUMENTO: This was September-October of 1988.
LAMB:Then what did you do?
Mr. FUMENTO: Well, at that point, I s--I wasn't going to spend--in fact, even to the extent that I was doing cite checking, I was being harassed. My office was rifled at one point. I guess they were trying to look for something to--to get on me.
LAMB:Your office at the Civil Rights Commission.
Mr. FUMENTO: Right. It was rifled right in front of me. I was there. And it could have been worse.
LAMB:Who did it?
Mr. FUMENTO: The people from the office of--the general counsel's office.
LAMB:When you say rifled, what do you mean?
Mr. FUMENTO: Well, basically they really had me do it, I guess. But while they were standing there--I had been sick that day and I tried to go home early, and they said, `Oh, no, you're not going anywhere. You're going to stay here and you're going to go through all of your stuff, through your desk drawers.' I had boxes, I just had files everywhere. That's the way I operate. And they made me go through every sheet of paper, you know, while they watched, apparently looking for something that--that they could stick me with.
What had happened in the meantime was The Washington Post, you see, had come to me and they had done a story on what was happening to me, and that's what really--really upset my boss and that's when they decided they had to try to--you know, it wasn't enough to just move me out of the AIDS project, but basically they really had to try to get rid of me. And they--they succeeded. After about two weeks of this, I said, `The heck with this. I'm not going to put up with this anymore,' and I quit and just worked on the book full-time.
LAMB:And you finished the book when?
Mr. FUMENTO: I actually finished the first draft in February of '89, and then the--the--the final appendix and what have you was wrapped up September of '89.
LAMB:How ki--what kind of a conservative are you?
Mr. FUMENTO: I consider myself a Burkian conservative. Edmund Burke was the man who, in the late 1700s, defended the American Revolution, at the same time criticized the French Revolution, doing so because he said the American Revolution is an extension of--of that which is good about Britain, they're just a little bit ahead of us, and the French Revolution is a rejection of everything that conservatives should stand for. It's a rejection of--of the notion of that which works we use, that which doesn't work we throw out. Basically, Burke was the--the first, as far as I'm concerned, anti-alarmist. He--he hated radical ideas that basically couldn't be backed up.
And so when I criticize conservatives in the book, I'm saying they're being strictly anti-Burkian. You know, they're screaming about the next black death, panic in the streets and what have you, and it should be up to the conservatives, more than the liberals, to reject those kinds of notions. And so I think, if anything, I was harder on the conservatives perhaps than I was on the liberals because I am one, and--and I think we should be held to a higher standard.
LAMB:Which national conservatives that we know, besides Edmund Burke, today are you--would you consider yourself thinking the most like?
Mr. FUMENTO: I have a lot in common with Ro--Ronald Reagan's ideology, although not necessarily the way it was implemented. Other than that, William F. Buckley and I have a considerable overlap.
LAMB:Didn't Ronald Reagan just do a spot about heterosexual AIDS?
Mr. FUMENTO: Yes. Well, unfortunately, President Reagan can't be an expert on every issue. As president and as a former president now, he's very, very much dependent on what other people tell him. And I'm sure with every ot--every best intention in the world, he went on and he did that spot because somebody told him, you know, this is a good thing and this is what's happening.
LAMB:What do you think--here's a--a look again at the book we're talking about, "The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS." And our guest is Michael Fumento, who is the author of this book. You talked about the difficulty of finding a publisher. When did you start again looking for a publisher for this book?
Mr. FUMENTO: I actually started back in probably December of '87, January of '88, a little bit after the first article appeared in Commentary. I did the article and I had about six extra boxes of files and I said, `Well, I've got enough material here to do a book,' and so at that point, I began looking, got an agent fairly quickly...
LAMB:Hired an agent.
Mr. FUMENTO: Right. But just went through hell getting a publisher.
LAMB:When you hire an agent, what kind of a person do you look for and--you don't have to tell us specifically, but what kind of a cut do they normally
Mr. FUMENTO: They normally get anywhere from 10 percent to 15 percent. Mine's very good so he gets 15 percent.
LAMB:And so what's the agent do?
Mr. FUMENTO: It's his job to--first of all, to get a publisher, to get people interested, and then the idea is to try to get more than one, and then you have an auction and you try to get the highest bidder. And you don't just look at the money. You try to look at who's going to be good with the book.
In this case, I think I did very good, New Republic Books. They've got an excellent editor there, although it's a smaller house. And unfortunately, he thought--at the time, he said, `Oh, this is a fascinating idea. You've got a great outline here, you've already done a chapter. You've had--you've gotten a lot of respect. We're going to get a lot of publishers here. We're going to get an auction and we're going to get you a nice fat advance.'
Well, the problem was no--publisher after publisher, what we'd find would be at least one person on the publishing staff, virtually every single one on the editorial staff, loved the idea, wanted to run with it. But there was at least ne person on that same staff who loathed it, who said, `No, I will not be party to this.' And it works on a blackball system, and so the result was that it looked like we had nobody, but New Republic, which had been on hiatus, started publishing again, and so we went with them and we got a publisher.
LAMB:You can see here on the book, it says, `New--A New Republic Book, Basic Books.' Isn't that the same company that Irving Kristol used to be involved in, Basic Books?
Mr. FUMENTO: Yes, I--I think that's the case. They've put out some good material: "Wealth & Poverty" by George Gilder. They put out "Losing Ground" by Charles Murray.
LAMB:Where's the New Republic book division located, here in Washington?
Mr. FUMENTO: New York City.
LAMB:In New York City.
Mr. FUMENTO: Right. They're affiliated with the magazine. The magazine's in Washington.
LAMB:Who's your agent?
Mr. FUMENTO: Glen Hartley … too.
LAMB:Where's he based?
Mr. FUMENTO: He's based in New York.
LAMB:OK. He went out to find a publisher, and when was the first time you knew that there was a problem?
Mr. FUMENTO: Oh, pretty early on. It didn't take very long. I guess by March, it was becoming clear that things were...
LAMB:March of '80...
Mr. FUMENTO: Of '88, that things were not looking as--as well as he had hoped, and I was, in fact, pretty much convinced they would be. None of us at any point, including myself, had any idea the kind of animosity that this project would bring out. I continue to be stunned by the anger that I have seen in response to this.
LAMB:When did he start telling you in those times about the publishers, and what were--do you have any publishers that specifically reacted by saying, `We'll not touch that book'?
Mr. FUMENTO: Oh, yeah, I've got letters from all of them, and I quote from...
LAMB:Can you tell us some of them?
Mr. FUMENTO: Well, I quote from two letters in the introduction. One was the--the quote you gave about, `We don't think that this is'--How did it go?--`that this is best--best serves people with AIDS or people who might get AIDS.' And then there's one other in there.
LAMB:Can you tell us who they are, the companies?
Mr. FUMENTO: No, I can't remember anymore. But eve--even having said that, why--if I told you, it would just be a matter of saying these were the ones who are honest enough to, you know--and I appreciate that--honest enough to say, `This is why we're not publishing it,' and I'm sure a few of those other publishers felt exactly the same way, but instead said, `Nah, we're afraid it won't make money. We're afraid of this or afraid of that.' You know, more afr--a market-oriented response when, in fact, I know a lot of publishers just didn't want to see this in print.
And--and now we're going through this with the stores, and that's what's really heartbreaking. I've worked two and a half years on this book. It's a darn good book. It's 400 pages long. It's got 1,500 endnotes, more notes in this book than any other book ever written on AIDS, so it's by far the most heavily researched on AIDS, with the possible exception of Randy Schultz's book, "And the Band Played On."
And now it's--it's at a point where it's terribly difficult to buy this book. I had four people call me in a 24-hour period of time to say they couldn't find the book anywhere, they've looked and looked and finally gave up. Now if four people are calling me, how many people out there are trying to find this book and cannot because so very few stores are stocking it? My hometown of Denver, there are probably about 20 or so bookstores, and I think only two bookstores are even carrying it.
LAMB:Have you gone into a bookstore yourself and asked them?
Mr. FUMENTO: Yes, over and over and over. Finally yesterday in Washington, DC, I first saw my book in a bookstore.
LAMB:What are they telling you when you ask them if the book is in the store?
Mr. FUMENTO: The s--the stores themselves don't know. Often the person you ask just doesn't know. They'll say, well, it's--you can go into Waldenbooks and ask, as I have, and they'll say, `Well, I think it's on order.' But the fact is, the Waldenbooks store chain, the largest chain in the country, refuses to stock this book. They've bought not a single copy.
LAMB:All right, if somebody is watching this interview and they want a copy of this book, can they get it by going around the bookstores?
Mr. FUMENTO: Well, actually if you go to a bookstore and special order it, they'll almost always do it for you. You know, it's one thing for a chain, for instance, to say, `No, we won't buy this guy's book. It's too controversial,' or what have you. But that doesn't mean that the individual Waldens, for instance, wouldn't carry it if they could. They have no choice in the matter. But if--so even if you go into a Waldens and special order it, I think they'll do it for you. And certainly if you go into most an--any other store--most stores, they'll special order it, but it's a matter of they won't put it out on the shelves.
LAMB:What's the publication date on the book?
Mr. FUMENTO: It was published about three weeks ago.
LAMB:And so therefore, by now, these books should be in the bookstore?
Mr. FUMENTO: Oh, they should have been in the bookst--publication date means we're--by that date, it's in all the stores. If it's not in now, if it wasn't in three weeks ago, it wasn't meant to be in those stores.
LAMB:What's the book cost?
Mr. FUMENTO: It's $22.95.
LAMB:And are you getting any specific reasons from any of the bookstores you've visited as to why they won't stock this book?
Mr. FUMENTO: No. As I said, by the time it gets down to that level, especially, you know, you're talking to a clerk or something like that, they honestly don't know.
LAMB:But have you talked to any of the--any of the publishers themselves? I mean--not the publishers, but any of the distributors?
Mr. FUMENTO: Right. We've talked with Waldenbooks every few days--my publisher has talked to Waldenbooks, and they give the--the excuse that basically, `We can't stock every book. We don't stock every Basic Book. We don't stock every book. That's impossible. We have limited shelf space.' The response to that is: This is the most publicized book in the country now. In the last few weeks, I've been in Time magazine, US News & World Report. I'm in the current issue of Playboy. USA Today had a large photo of me and a whole s--thing about me. I got a full-page review in The New York Times Book Review, several pages in The Washington Monthly, which usually gives you about one column. I think I got four pages; as I said, the most talked about book in the country. Waldenbooks has probably, in the last few weeks, stocked 50, 60 new titles, none of which happens to be my book.
LAMB:How many books were printed in the first printing?
Mr. FUMENTO: The first one was 7,000, which doesn't--7,500--which doesn't sound like much, but nowadays they can go back to a printer so quickly that basically unless they absolutely know a book's going to sell tens of thousands, they--they might start out with 5,000, 7,000 and then reprint as nece--necessary.
LAMB:The most recent book that created a lot of controversy that the bookstores had problems with was Salman Rushdie's book. The press wrote a lot about that. You say the press has written a lot about your book. Have--has anybody in the press come to your defense on the fact that this book isn't being distributed?
Mr. FUMENTO: Some people are. National Review is doing apparently something on it, and Chronicles--it's a small magazine out of Illinois--is doing something on it, and I had a--a columnist call me yesterday about it, but I won't say his name because he might not end up running the column. But other people have expressed some interest, but basically at this point, that's--that's my only recourse now is to publicize this. If--if Waldens is reacting, as I think they are, to some sort of threat, be it outside, inside of--whatever, `We'll boycott you or we'll walk out,' maybe--maybe Walden employees are saying, `We'll walk out if you distribute this book'--if they're acting in such a cowardly fashion, as I'm convinced they are, the thing that's going to prompt them to start stocking the book is to put more heat on the other side, to make it more difficult for them to not stock the book than to--than to stock it.
LAMB:What's--what's all the commotion about?
Mr. FUMENTO: If you read the book, it's very clear. It's--as I said, it's--the reason I had to write this book is because we have taken a disease--and it is just a disease--and we've made it the most politically charged thing of the decade practically. All these different groups, be it the conservative moralists, be it the homosexuals, have turned this thing into just a huge political football. The homosexuals--their reasoning's pretty clear. They have fought for decades now for gay liberation. They've es--gotten themselves to a point where a lot of people are saying, `Hey, they're just like you and me, but, you know, for a little difference.'
Along comes this--this horrible disease. Seventy percent of the victims of this disease are homosexual males. Homosexual males comprise, at best, 5 percent of the population. And so homosexuals do not want the perception of a disease saying that they're doing something different than he--than heterosexuals, and so the way to counter this is to try to make it everybody's disease.
At the same time, there's the problem with research funds. Homosexuals and--and their sympathizers, generally liberals, have felt all along--and I think there's something to this--that to per--to the degree--to the extent that this was perceived as a disease of undesirables--homosexuals first, intravenous drug abusers second--that the research funds would not be forthcoming to fight it. And so to that extent, they had to make it everybody's disease so that everybody would feel good about reaching into their wallet and pulling out large amounts of money, to an extent that we're now spending more on AIDS than we are on cancer, even though cancer will kill half a million people each year and AIDS will never kill more than 35,000 to 40,000.
So you've got, as I said, all these disparate point of views. The condom manufacturers--let's face it, most of their purchasers are heterosexuals. They're going to aim their ads at heterosexuals. Planned Parenthood, Population Options, these type groups for years have been trying to get people to wear condoms to keep babies from being born. Well, now they've got a better reason. Wear condoms to keep yourself from being killed. So, so many people--researchers, in general, working on AIDS have--have motivation to try to keep the--the figures pumped up, to keep the fear pumped up.
So you have all these different groups pushing the fear, pushing the false numbers, and it is--I have no constituency on my side. There's no agenda that you can push with my book, and so basically, I have individuals who have been very supportive, but there's no group that's going to come rushing to my defense. It doesn't work that way. The groups are all on the other side.
LAMB:You say in your book that there have been 200 books written on the other side?
Mr. FUMENTO: Oh, there are over 300 books on AIDS, of which--I couldn't give you an exact number, but many, many, many alarmist books; not just the Masters and Johnson book. That's just the one we--that most people have heard about. Masters and Johnson were not the first. They won't be the last.
LAMB:But you're the only person that's written a book on this side of the fence.
Mr. FUMENTO: There's one other book by a science writer named John Langone who did touch on this. He had about two chapters where he talked about it, but nobody else has gone into--gone into the disease to the de--you know, to the depths that I have. Nobody's even approached that. And nobody's gone into the reasons for the distortions to the extent that I have.
LAMB:I have in my hand a--Op-Ed piece in The New York Times. I don't have a date on it, but it would--you may remember it. It's by Bernard--Bernard Goldberg, who is a special correspondent with "48 Hours" for the CBS News program. Have you seen that?
Mr. FUMENTO: Yes. I believe that came out--it was a Friday. I think it was probably 29 January.
LAMB:He says, `There was a lot of bad, irresponsible reporting on AIDS, Mr. Fumento asserts, and on this he is dead right.' He goes on to say, `The real reason journalists got this story so wrong, I think, is much more subtle than circulation and ratings competition, and much more insidious. It is what we might call journalism by sentiment, and it applies to far more than just the AIDS story.' First of all, this is Bernard Goldberg of CBS. Are you surprised that he basically agrees with you?
Mr. FUMENTO: It was a pleasant surprise. I--I don't know the gentleman, and so when somebody you don't know comes rushing to your aid in the Op-Ed section of The New York Times, you're always happy about it.
LAMB:What about his--his suggestion it's journalism by sentiment?
Mr. FUMENTO: That's exactly what's going on. There have been primarily two motivations for media distortion--and I'm talking gross media distortion. Back in 1985, the cover of Life magazine was Now No One is Safe From AIDS, and it went downhill from there. Two motivators here: One is strict sensationalism. Let's sell papers, let's sell magazines, let's sell TV shows. Connie Chung's show, "Scared Sexless," was the highest-rating documentary of its type in, I think, 14 years.
But the other motivation is that these people are very sympathetic to homosexuals and the gay liberation movement, and feel that it is wrong--it is morally wrong for a disease to single out individual groups. And you just--of course, you can't attribute morality to a disease. It's a--it's a stupid virus, that's all it is. It is a virus, though, that likes to be transmitted primarily through anal intercourse. Homosexuals and--engage in anal intercourse, it's primarily a homosexual disease. That's the facts. These eople didn't like the facts and, to some extent, perhaps intentionally and to a greater extent, I think, by just running it through their own filters, their own ideological filters, these people took a disease of homosexuals primarily, of drug abusers secondarily, and made it everybody's disease because they felt if it's such a horrible disease, it should be everybody's disease. It should
be a democratic disease. This is what the gentleman was talking about when he says, you know, they're letting their sentiment carry them away.
LAMB:Bernard Goldberg writes, `There are too many reporters out there who work the "victims America"'--in quotes--`"victims America" beat. They specialize in uncritical stories about the downtrodden. They act more like
social workers than journalists, and when it came to AIDS, they were more than willing to dispense with their usual skepticism in order to champion the underdog.' Does CBS--I mean, he works for CBS News. Did they do anything like that? I mean, did they report--I mean, you mentioned Connie Chung, "victims America" beat. I mean, aren't these people in the same--all in the same business?
Mr. FUMENTO: Yes. Actually, I--I admire Mr. Goldberg for his candor and I hope it doesn't come back to haunt him as mine has haunted me.
LAMB:Do you think it will?
Mr. FUMENTO: I think there's a good chance. If you keep writing things like that, people don't like you. People--my reviewers have called me vicious names. I've been called everything from a--a sexist--I don't know how they got that. I've been called a pig, homophobe, sodomite supporter on the other hand.
LAMB:Are you any of those?
Mr. FUMENTO: No. I just don't fall into any of those categories. I don't even discuss some of them. Yes, I say that 70 percent of all AIDS cases are in homosexuals. Why does that make me a homophobe? I don't understand. I say that most of the remainder are in minorities. Does that make me racist? The book is very anti-racist. I've been accused of racism even. The book is very anti-racist. I--I conclude the chapter on how this is especially hurting blacks and Hispanics by saying that basically the white, middle-class majority ignored these people when they needed our help; that this time, we didn't leave them on the back of a bus, we left them on the back of a hearse. And yet, out of all this, I get called a racist. It's--it's really dirty pool. But I guess it should be encouraging in a sense in that if they feel they have to go after me, personally, they're having a lot of trouble dealing with the argument, and this, in fact, has been the case. They're just basically skipping the argument and going after me.
LAMB:You said earlier that--and I remember reading it in your book--that the charge--or was it the Kinsey Report that originally said that 10 percent of our population was homosexual?
Mr. FUMENTO: Well, that's--it's interesting, that whole thing. And this is, again, one of the reasons that homosexuals do not want to see this book get into people's hands.
LAMB:But you then said 5 percent and I think I read you said 4 percent in the book or some studies...
Mr. FUMENTO: Right. OK. Let's clarify all this.
LAMB:...says 4 percent. What--what is it?
Mr. FUMENTO: OK. Kinsey, according to the homosexual activists, said that 10 percent of American males are homosexual, and so from that, you can say, well, then 5 percent of the US population is--is male homosexual because, of course, 50 percent of the population--51 percent is female. So that's the 5 percent figure. So when I say at most, 5 percent of the population is male homosexual, I'm using their Kinsey figure. OK?
The fact is, Kinsey actually didn't say that. I'm just saying that to be gracious, the--at most, 5 percent. What Kinsey said was that 10 percent of the male population, according to his studies, were primarily homosexually oriented three years of their life. Now that's a far cry from saying 10 percent of the male population is homosexual. The figure he used for what you and I would think of as--as homosexual--that is pretty much throughout their lives--is a 4 percent figure. Kinsey said 4 percent of American males, which comes out to about 2 percent of the US population.
So obviously, homosexuals aren't too keen on hearing that. It clearly cuts into their political base. They try to say, `We are everywhere. We're your children, we're your brothers,' what have you. And now along comes this guy who says, `No, no, no. Kinsey never gave those figures. Go to Kinsey's book. It's right there. It's on the library shelf. Look it up. Kinsey didn't say that.' And they really don't care for me very much for having pointed that out. But again, I just--I use other people's data. I never make my own stuff up. It's always other people's material that's in this book.
LAMB:One of the connections we like to make most of the time on this network is that what we talked about has something to do with federal government policy or government or politics in general. What does AIDS have to do and homosexuality have to do with the federal government or federal funds or why is the government involved? And you used to work for the Civil Rights Commission. Tell us why they were involved and also how much money--of federal taxpayer money is being spent on this.
Mr. FUMENTO: Well, this year, we're spending $1.6 billion on AIDS, and that includes research, that includes education, what have you, and I think some of that is well spent, and I think a lot of it is not. I have a tremendous di--tremendous problem with the government education campaign. It has been from the beginning not--November of 1987--a shotgun approach. Everybody's at risk sort of approach; a bumper sticker approach: AIDS doesn't discriminate, AIDS is an equal opportunity destroyer. These are not necessarily government slogans, but these are--this is the point of view that they've adapted. They don't like to talk about the niceties of how exactly people are getting it. They don't like to talk about anal sex.
So they've made it everybody's disease, which I guess is nice for them. It's this whole sentimental thing. We've got to bring everybody in under the risk umbrella. We've got to fight this thing as a nation like a war, like World War II. But the fact is that that's not the way the disease is operating. It is a highly limited disease. It is limited by demographics, it is limited geographically in many ways, and the fact that you might have one case in a small town in Wisconsin doesn't mean that this is primarily a disease that you can say, `Here it is and here it really isn't.'
And epidemiology, the whole purpose of tracking diseases is to find out where they are to find out how to fight them, and so to the extent that you're doing as the government is doing and you're saying, `Oh, it's everywhere. Don't even worry about being specific,' this or that--to the extent you're doing that, you're crippling your ability to fight it. That's really what the book's all about.
LAMB:I've got a--a--a review here from a woman by the name of Elizabeth Whalen in The Washington Times.
Mr. FUMENTO: Mm-hmm.
LAMB:Remember that one?
Mr. FUMENTO: Yes. It was a--one of the least favorable reviews. In fact, it was one of the only reviews I've gotten that said I'm wrong on the epidemiology.
LAMB:Let me read that just so we--we're--we're--we're all talking about the same thing. `Unfortunately, he oversteps the bounds of his expertise by trying to draw scientific conclusions from the epidemiology of AIDS. He is quite honest about his lack of medical and scientific training. His acknowledgement that AIDS is a subject anyone can opine upon,' she says it is entirely--or you say, `It is entirely possible for the layman to acquire expertise matching that of a medical school graduate'--`conveys to the reader his disdain for the scientific discipline.'
Mr. FUMENTO: It's a false statement. It's as false a statement as I've seen on anything. This book is all scientific. I have tremendous respect for scientific methodology. I have disgust with and disdain for people who have written on AIDS who have thrown scientific methodology to the--to the four winds. You cannot read this book and possibly come to the conclusion she came to.
LAMB:She is the president of the American Council on--on Science and Health.
Mr. FUMENTO: Yes, and they've been an AIDS alarmist organization. This is exactly what I'm talking about when I say that my book is being reviewed by the same people that I'm criticizing. And so, for example, I'll give you the most egregious example of what the American Council of Science and Health has done. I have a whole chapter on the statistical distortions that we've seen with this epidemic, and the one that gave rise to the tremendous peak in fear in 1987 was pure statistical horseplay.
What happened was Centers for Disease Control originally classified 2 percent of all AIDS cases as being heterosexually transmitted. Come--oh, at that time, 2 percent more were from what we call pattern two countries--Haiti, African countries--where we weren't sure exactly what was going on. Well, Haiti didn't care for that very much at all. It was crippling their tourist industry having their own category, believe it or not. So CDC pulled them out of that category...
Mr. FUMENTO: Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. They're under the public health service--pulled them out of that category and threw them in with the undetermineds, people we don't know how they got it. Well, CDC didn't like that because suddenly they had all these new undetermineds and I guess they were afraid people would say, `Well, is that mosquito transmission? What's going on? Why are they undetermined?' So they reclassified them. They put them in the heterosexual category. Now we can question whether they should have done that or not, but the fact is so the media now is running headlines: Heterosexual AIDS was 2 percent of all cases and suddenly it's 4 percent. Well, sure it is. It's strictly statistical.
Then CDC and the media did something else. Then the CDC, for their projections for 1991, looked at these undetermineds. Now an undetermined simply means they died before they could be interviewed, they haven't been interviewed yet, they refuse to be interviewed--something like that. That's why they're undetermined. CDC, for projecting how many AIDS cases there would be and what percentages and so on for 1991, threw in all the undetermineds with the heterosexuals and the--and the Africans and Haitians and called them heterosexuals. So now the headlines are reading: It was 2 percent among heterosexuals, now it's 4 percent among heterosexuals, and by 1991, CDC says it will be 9 percent or 10 percent among heterosexuals. And we're talking apples, oranges and finally grapefruits.
Well, I wrote about this in my Commentary piece, the first piece that I did on AIDS, and it caught a lot of attention, and I think a lot of people in the media were ashamed that they had--that they had done this, that they had repeated each other's bad statistics, that they hadn't looked at what CDC was doing. And as a result of that, within five months, nobody else--nobody in the media was doing this anymore. They quit it completely.
But about a year later, the American Council on Science and Health came out with their latest AIDS booklet, I opened it up and I was stunned. Those figures were in their latest booklet, as if they had pulled them out of my Commentary piece, and the most amazing thing is that Beth Whalen had sent me a note saying she'd read the Commentary piece, so she knew about the piece, she knew I debunked those figures, and a year later these figures show up in her own booklet. That's...
LAMB:Let--let me go back. You mentioned Commentary. I forgot to ask you this earlier. Why was Commentary originally interested in your piece? How does that work? Did you--did you pitch it to them?
Mr. FUMENTO: I originally pitched it to a couple of other magazines. I pitched it to Esquire and to Harper's, which are both more liberal magazines, and--with bigger circulations. But I had--I had and have great respect for Commentary, although their circulation is much smaller. And so I just gave it to them sight unseen.
LAMB:Why Commentary? What's you--what do you like about them?
Mr. FUMENTO: They're very methodological, I think. They're--they--they run long pieces, for one, and this was a long piece. Other magazines--many other magazines wouldn't run half of my piece. They ran probably three-fourths of it. And they're--they're academic and I think I needed something like that even though I'm a journalist and I like to write articles and books, for that matter, including this one, that people can read fairly easily. So they had the respect, they had length and I think it's an all-around good magazine, so I went to them.
AMB: Here's what the book looks like. It's "The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS," published by the New Republic's Basic Books. Our guest is Michael Fumento. Where--are you concerned about your own personal career due to the lack of books in the bookstores and you're out pushing this book? You got a sense that you've got a future after this?
Mr. FUMENTO: Well, I will, especially two years down the road. Right now it's going to be really tough. In fact, I can't even look for a nine-to-five now, I think, because employers are going to be very wary. There's so much publicity swirling around me that I think I'm probably very difficult to hire; lthough I would like to get a job after this dies down, obviously. I--I've lost a tremendous amount of money on the book. I put myself $8,000 into debt writing it, probably lost another $20,000 or so that I would have been earning when I was writing it, so financially, I'm pretty poorly off.
But, you know, obviously I have great faith in the book, and I don't doubt--I'm telling you--I'll tell you right here. In two years, this would not be--will not be a controversial book. Ever--people will open this book in the library or wherever they've gotten ahold of it and they'll read it and they'll read it with great interest and will say, `Well, that explains why, you know, that was going on.' But...
LAMB:Why two years?
Mr. FUMENTO: It's going to take that long before these things--before the dust settles and before it becomes clear to the great majority of people that everything I've been saying is true.
LAMB:All right, let's go to the--the actual statistics in the book. What are the chances, if you are a heterosexual male or female, in this society that you're going to get AIDS?
Mr. FUMENTO: It really kind of breaks down along a class basis, mainly because the lower classes, especially minorities, are sharing needles, and needle sharing is the greatest risk, both to a heterosexual, first of all, and second of all to a person having sex with other heterosexuals. That is to say, the vast majority of heterosexual transmission cases are occurring where the partner is a needle sharer, OK. Needle sharing, it tends to be a Northeast corridor problem--New Jersey, New York. Needle sharing tends to be a lower-class problem. Needle sharing tends to be a minority problem.
So if you cut those things out of the picture--let's say you're talking about a--your average white, heterosexual, middle-class person, be it in the Chicago suburbs, be it in the--the Washington, DC, suburbs, what have you, their chance of getting AIDS is actually lower than their chance of either being struck by lightning or drowning in a bathtub, which is above zero. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but it's way below what they've been told, and it's way below virtually any other risk that they could possible conceive as--as threatening their lives.
LAMB:Let me just take off with your statistics. What if you're a black female or male and live in the suburbs of Cleveland? What are your chances?
Mr. FUMENTO: Then, as I recall, Cleveland has a high needle sharing rate.
Mr. FUMENTO: Denver has virtually no needle sharing going on.
LAMB:But if you're not into drugs, then you have nothing to worry about.
Mr. FUMENTO: If you're not into drugs and the--and the people you tend to associate with are not, you have very little to wor--worry about, right.
Conversely, I have to point out, if you are, you can be at tremendous risk. The--the black--your typical heterosexual AIDS victim isn't the kind of people you see on television shows like "Midnight Caller," like "St. Elsewhere," isn't the type of people whose faces you see plastered on magazines like US News & World Report, like The Atlantic. It is a black or Hispanic female who's living in the New York-New Jersey area whose steady sexual partner--we're not talking promiscuity here--steady sexual partner is an intravenous drug abuser. And for these women, they probably have a better chance of dying of AIDS than anything else. And I think we're being horribly cruel when we pretend that we're all at equal risk. You're lying to people or deceiving them at any rate, and I think at the margin, people will die because we're giving them this false, `everybody's going to get it,' or `everybody's at risk' message.
LAMB:The--there are three chapters in this book that I want you to talk a little more about. One of them is--let's see if I can get the titles on them. The Liberal Democratizers--we talked about that earlier. We've talked about all these, as a matter of fact. The Conservative Alarmists and the Media and the Doctors of Doom. And let me start with the Media and the Doctors of Doom. `As was usual with any aspect of heterosexual AIDS, USA Today led the nation's newspapers in sounding the alarm. And as usual, USA Today was wrong.' What is it about USA Today that--you start out by--matter of fact, I've got the story here somewhere and I'll get it while you're talking about it--that they put in on you. Why USA Today on heterosexual AIDS?
Mr. FUMENTO: They are the worst newspaper if you're interested in getting news. Now if you want a glitzy newspaper, if you like color photos, if that's the kind of thing you're into, buy USA Today. They'll do quite well by you. If you want to know what's going on in the world, from what I've seen, USA Today is the worst. Their stories are the clippiest. They're the most sensationalist. When I talked about the missing children thing, they more than any other paper in the country from what I can tell, were pushing this missing chil--children scare. They had these horrible cartoons such as a giant hand scooping up this poor little girl. They had another of--of the United States--this is missing children--the United States covered with little children. There's a--a huge hole and all these children are being sucked into it--just vicious, really pretty much vicious type things to get people to buy the newspaper. And then we saw it all over again with AIDS.
LAMB:Let me show--I've got a black and white copy here. It'll show--thi s was on the front page of the Life section?
Mr. FUMENTO: Right.
LAMB:When was this published?
Mr. FUMENTO: This was January 22nd.
LAMB:OK, we'll get a close-up here. We see you in the top there with the picture and then go in on the--on the headline if you could, Cheryl. I'll reach this ble--over here, get the he--`Critics say author twists conclusions, but the writer charges that activists and the media have blurred the issues.' Was this a fair article?
Mr. FUMENTO: She didn't misquote me, and so I was very grateful for that. What she did do--and incidentally, the writer of this piece is--is the writer whose name comes up a lot in my notes--I don't think in the text--but in the notes as having...
Mr. FUMENTO: Right--as having run--done articles that I don't think were especially accurate. But what she did do was every single person that she wrote up in the piece was, in fact, a critic. There was nobody defending me, and it gives you this idea that--that, in fact, there's nobody out there defending me, that I'm entirely a lone wolf. And the fact is that if you look to your epidemiologists, the people I want on my side, the vast majority of them who are in non-political positions, non-elected positions, will tell you very much exactly what I have told you, and many of their names are, in fact, in my book. And in fact, my book has been end--endorsed by the former chief epidemiologist for Centers for Disease Control, Alexander Langmuir; ran the shop for decades and is a brilliant man, and I couldn't ask for a better supporter. But according to the USA Today article, you would get the idea that, no, everybody else in the world thinks this is a--a book with serious problems.
LAMB:How many heterosexuals will die of AIDS in 1990?
Mr. FUMENTO: Probably--it's easier to say how many diagnosed. We can work from there. Probably about 1,000 of which, again, the great majority will be the people I've described: the--the poor, black, Hispanic, people leeping with the needle sharers. The category that the media is fascinated with--I'm talking cases diagnosed, not deaths. Deaths will be somewhat below that. The fascination the media has is with the white woman who gets it from a bisexual, and that's what we're seeing over and over. We're saw that on "The Midnight Caller" where one handsome studly bisexual male infects two different beautiful white women with one act of intercourse each from a singles bar.
LAMB:By the way, what is "The Midnight Caller"?
Mr. FUMENTO: It's a--a series, I don't recall which station, concerning a--a policeman turned disc jockey or a talk show host. That's what we're seeing in the media, that's what we're seeing in the magazines. You'd think bisexuals are everywhere and they're infecting women left and right, and the--the reason I think they do that is because, again, this is a way of bringing the white, heterosexual middle class in. The fact is that most white, heterosexual, middle-class people know darned well that their chance of sleeping with a drug abuser is anywhere from slim to none. But bisexuals, that's a different ball game. You never know. So I'll give you a figure on that. Last year, bi--num--the number of women infected by bisexuals or who were diagnosed with AIDS from bisexuals was 90, and the year before it was 100, so the number's actually declining.
LAMB:Let me add up some of this stuff. In your chapter the liberal--the liberals you criticize heavily, the conservatives--which you say you're one--you criticize heavily for different reasons on this whole issue, the press gets a lot of criticism, the bookstores won't put your book in. Out of 300 books, only one other one is written from your point of view. What makes and--and I don't want this to sound nasty--but what makes you think you're right and everybody else is wrong?
Mr. FUMENTO: Well, it's really a matter of who's right and who's wrong. As I said, the epidemiologists below the political level--I'm not talking--well, I'm not talking generally your public health officials, the people whose names you've been hearing. I think Surgeon General Koop, who's not an epidemiologist, by the way, has been dismal on this AIDS thing. He's in a public position.
LAMB:He's al--he also was very popular in the media, wasn't he?
Mr. FUMENTO: Oh, very popular and...
Mr. FUMENTO: He was basically a likeable guy and he looked a little like Captain Kangaroo, and that certainly helped, but again, he made this everybody's disease. He democratized it. We're all in this together. And that gives people a really good feeling. And I've taken that away from them, I guess. I--you know, I--I say it is everybody's disease in the sense we should all be concerned. I--I do believe we're our brothers' keepers, but by pretending that everybody's got an equal chance to get it, as I said, you're just--you're really crippling your ability to fight it. But Surgeon General Koop could have led the way with that.
So I'm saying don't go to the--you can't go to the--the politicized people like the surgeon general, various health commissioners. You can't go to them. But you go to the people who advise them, the people who directly advise them, he people like Harold Jaffe, who for several years was the chief AIDS epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control, and those people will give you the straight story, and those people overwhelmingly will give you the story that I have been giving you. So it's not like everybody's against me. It's really a matter of who do you want on your side? Who do you really trust? The people I trust--the epidemiologists, the people who track this
disease--I think are on my side.
LAMB:Speaking of the media, you talked about the missing children's--children's story that they ran with years ago and then this story. What e--whatever happened to the herpes story? That was a--is that--do you put that in the same category?
Mr. FUMENTO: Yes, herpes was basically eclipsed by two things. One was AIDS itself--a killer disease vs. another sort of sexually transmitted disease, the killer disease is going to win out. And the other is that somebody discovered along the way that nobody dies of herpes. It's discomforting, but many people will have discomporting--discomforting symptoms once and then they won't have them again, and people started to realize that. But it's interesting, I give--in one point in my book, I--I talk--I give a quote from Time magazine, and I'd just talked about the--well, I've been talking about AIDS, of course, for the whole book and I give this quote to the reader from Time magazine. And the reader, I'm sure, looks at that and goes, `Oh, he's talking about AIDS again,' and no--I say, `No, actually he's talking about herpes.' So, I mean, we saw it once with herpes. We're going to see it, you know, with AIDS. We're seeing it AIDS. We'll see it with something else in the future. The media likes to dust off the old sensationalism and reuse it.
LAMB:Let's assume for talking purposes that you're right, that the media is using this story because it's a sensational story and they get a lot of readers and all that out of it. What is the motivation? Have you ever talked to people? I mean, have you ever--have you ever--if--if you're right, have you ever had anybody say, `Look, yeah, this is a great story. We're going to push this for all it's worth'?
Mr. FUMENTO: My story, you're saying?
LAMB:No. The story of heterosexuals and AIDS.
Mr. FUMENTO: Yeah. Yeah, I've now had some--some people in the media who've kind of used me as a father confessor and said, `Yeah, you know, you're right. We did kind of blow it.'
LAMB:But did they blow it on purpose?
Mr. FUMENTO: Oh, they'll never--they're never going to tell me that, and I don't think--I think the vast, vast majority basically did not say--say, `I'm going to sit down and I'm going to lie.' I don't think that happened--very
rarely. I think it was a matter of they ran it through their filters and their filters could not conceive of a disease that could possibly pick on basically the same people that Jerry Falwell might have wanted a disease to pick on. They couldn't envision that, and because they couldn't envision it, they couldn't write about it.
LAMB:What about the conservatives, and what have you learned about people in this--you know, you--you take on everybody.
Mr. FUMENTO: Yeah. I've learned, first of all, that this--the notion of free speech in this country is pretty much nonsense. I used to believe that this country held up free speech as a--you know, one of the most important things in our society. And I've learned since then that, no, to a great extent it's: I believe in free speech to the extent of people agreeing with me, and a little bit further beyond that. But if something really, really riles me, if I really don't want other people to hear this, well, you've got to draw the line somewhere. And they've been drawing the line at my work. And, in fact, they've been drawing the line before my work.
An important point is--again, I'm a journalist. I don't do any of my own studies. Every study in this book, all these 1,500 endnotes, are pulled from somewhere else. They've been out there. Some of these things have been out there for years, and they've been ignored. And it's--I think that's a spooky concept, and so finally I put them together in my own book, and what do I find? I find that my book is being treated the same way.
LAMB:Yo--there's a paragraph I want to ask you about in the--in the acknowledgements up front. You say, `James Boulet'--is that the way he pronounces it? Boulet (pronounced BouLETT) or Boulet (pronounced BouLAY)?
Mr. FUMENTO: That's right. Boulet (pronounced BouLAY).
LAMB:`Formerly of the Moral Majority graciously opened up to me that organization's Washington office AIDS files.' What does that mean?
Mr. FUMENTO: He released the work of the Washington offices of the Moral Majority, and they had more files on various aspects of the disease, mostly media, things like that, than anybody I'd ever seen. And so when I worked at the Civil Rights Commission I--I basically went through all those files and pulled out all the good stuff and photocopied it and then turned it over to the commission when I was working there, and then later on, I was able to keep some copies of that same material.
LAMB:Are you worried that by mentioning the Moral Majority, that everybody that reads this book will say, `Uh-huh. We've got him pegged'?
Mr. FUMENTO: No, because actually the--the Village Voice accused me, among other things, of course, of being a wolf in liberal's clothing, saying that basically to read the book, you'd think the guy's a liberal. So, so far, I've had some people say, `Yeah, this guy's a conservative. What do you expect?' But, no, on the whole, I haven't really--of all the things I've been hit on, haven't been hit on that.
LAMB:OK. One last sentence here. `Allan Ryskind did likewise at the Human Events'--meaning files--`even though he was convinced that I was going to find material to use against his own publication. I didn't.'
Mr. FUMENTO: Al's a nice guy. He really is. And I had already written on--I think I'd already written the article--yes--concerning conservatives, and--and I said, `I know you guys have some good material. Can I go through it?' And he goes, `I know what you're going to do. You're going to look and you're going to find all this material and some of it's going to be against Human Events and you're going to write about that in your book.' And I said, `Well, you know, I've got to do the honest thing. I--I'm here to report the facts, and that might--might, in fact, be the case.' But--so he said, `Yeah, go ahead anyway.' And I went through all their files and got good material, but, in--in fact, there was nothing to--to hit them with, and I don't know; maybe out of a sense of loyalty, I might have left them alone anyway because he was so good to me. But the fact is there wasn't any really good juicy stuff on Human Events.
LAMB:Are you getting tired of being pummeled?
Mr. FUMENTO: Yeah, I have to say. Everybody says, `Well, you knew this would happen.' Yeah, I did, but to the degree has just amazed me. The names--being called a pig. My mother didn't care for that much either. You know, being called a racist when I'm, you know, very anti-racist. Things like that, I didn't count on that. I didn't count on being in a situation now where I think it would be very hard to get a job for a while. I--I hoped beyond hope that I would be getting fairer treatment in some circles than I've been getting.
LAMB:You dedicated the book to your parents. Where are they?
Mr. FUMENTO: Champaign, Illinois.
LAMB:What kind of influence did they have in your life?
Mr. FUMENTO: Well, actually they're very liberal politically, and--and I li--grew up in a liberal town, a university town, and I became conservative, so obviously there was some rejection there of--of what they were teaching me. But the--at the same time, they did teach me to think critically. By having politics that were different from mine, they taught me, I guess in a sense, that it's OK to be different. It's OK to brave going against the prevailing winds, and so I guess I owe that to them.
LAMB:What do they do for a living?
Mr. FUMENTO: My father's a professor.
Mr. FUMENTO: He teaches English, basically how I--I basically inherited my writing skill from him I think genetically even. I don't know.
LAMB:Last question. Where do you think Michael Fumento will be in five years? Doing what?
Mr. FUMENTO: Either he'll be six feet under or--because people--this isn't the first time I've gotten into hot water. I intentionally choose subjects that--that are very important. I don't--I'm not going to be the 10th guy to write on anything. I'm going to be the first guy. I'm going to be leading the vanguard, and I'm--I will continue to upset people. That's fine. But I will continue to build respect at the same time, because time and again, I write these things and, voila, a year or two later, people are saying, `You know, that guy was absolutely right.' So if--if it's not the bad case, I think it'll probably be the good case.
LAMB:"The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS: How a Tragedy Has Been Distorted by the Media and Pa--Partisan Politics," by Michael Fumento. Thank you.
Mr. FUMENTO: Thank you.
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