Palaces For The People
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
PR Watch, vol. 7, no. 3: The Usual Suspects
Characters from Central Casting
Steven Milloy publishes the "Junk Science Home Page", which claims to debunk "bad science used by lawsuit-happy trial lawyers, the 'food police,' environmental Chicken Littles, power-drunk regulators, and unethical-to-dishonest scientists to fuel specious lawsuits, wacky social and political agendas, and the quest for personal fame and fortune."
Using schoolyard taunts and accusations of "mindless anti-chemical hysteria," Milloy routinely attacks the world's most prestigious scientific journals, including Science, Nature, the Lancet, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. A former lobbyist for the tobacco industry, Milloy is also a former executive director of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, a front group created by Philip Morris to attack the Environmental Protection Agency's risk analysis of secondhand cigarette smoke. (For details, see "How Big Tobacco Helped Create 'the Junkman'" in this issue.)
Bonner Cohen edits a newsletter called EPA Watch, which accuses the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of everything from destroying the U.S. economy to trying to stop people from taking showers. A Philip Morris strategy document describes EPA Watch as an "asset" created by PM funding allocated "to establish groups . . . that have a broader impact for PM."
Another Philip Morris strategy memo discusses plans to promote "EPA Watch/Bonner Cohen as expert on EPA matters, i.e., regular syndicated radio features on EPA activities, . . . news bureau function, speaking engagements, whatever can be done to increase his visibility and credibility on matters dealing with the EPA."
EPA Watch is published by the American Policy Center (APC), headed by long-time PR pro Thomas DeWeese. APC weighs in on what can safely be called the looney fringe of the sound science movement. One issue of the APC's newsletter, for example, attacks longtime environmentalist and author Jeremy Rifkin as "anti-industry, anti-civilization, anti-people" and accuses him of preaching "suicide, abortion, cannibalism and sodomy."
John Carlisle works for the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), which was formed in the 1980s to support the Reagan administration's military adventures in Central America. It now calls itself a "communications and research foundation dedicated to providing free market solutions to today's public policy problems." Its projects include Project 21, a conservative African American organization that has been funded by R.J. Reynolds and whose chairman, Edmund Peterson, opposed the FDA's tobacco regulation and other government policies to reduce tobacco use.
A 1995 memo from Philip Morris staffer Francis Gomez describes NCPPR president Amy Moritz Ridenour as "a willing ally," noting that she had just called his office "offering to use any information we can provide [regarding] the current anti-tobacco onslaught. . . . Tom Borelli and I have both been in touch with Amy on various issues and are awaiting proposals for use of an internet website as an accessible repository of PM-related information."
This issue describes Michael Fumento's role in circulating misleading tobacco propaganda. His résumé reads like a directory of conservative think tanks: the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Consumer Alert, and Reason magazine--all recipients of tobacco funding. He is currently a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank that spent the 1960s and 1970s envisioning nuclear war scenarios and defending the war in Vietnam, and now devotes itself to attacking environmentalists and defending industry.
Microbial geneticist Michael Gough, a former manager of the Biological and Behavioral Sciences Program at the congressional Office of Technology Assessment, oversaw a government inquiry which investigated Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange and found no adverse effects. In contrast with many people who have studied the subject, Gough has been quoted saying that the risk of cancer from dioxin "may be zero."
When he worked for the government, Gough took a hard line against tobacco. In 1990, he wrote a letter rebuffing an approach from Tom Borelli of Philip Morris regarding the issue of secondhand smoke. "Anything that reduces smoking has substantial health benefits, and making smokers into pariahs, for whatever reasons, does just that," he wrote. Industry apologists have occasionally cited Gough's comments as evidence of the government's "unscientific" bias against tobacco.
These opinions, however, have not prevented Gough from working closely with Steven Milloy. Both he and Milloy currently work for the libertarian Cato Institute, under whose auspices they have published a book together, titled Silencing Science. Cato receives funding from both Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, and its board of directors includes media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who also sits on the Philip Morris board. Not surprisingly, the Cato Institute has been a fierce defender of the tobacco industry, in publications such as 1998's "Lies, Damn Lies and 400,000 Smoking-Related Deaths." which claims that tobacco is "far less pernicious than Americans are led to believe. . . . The government should stop lying and stop pretending that smoking-related deaths are anything but a statistical artifact."
Kenneth Smith is deputy editor of the Washington Times editorial page, in which capacity he has polemicized in defense of leaded paint, biotech foods, DDT and Love Canal.
Among the authors of "The Fear Profiteers," Elizabeth Whelan is unique in being a strong critic of tobacco's health effects. On most other environmental and health issues, however, she has been a reliable industry ally, as we have reported in past issues of PR Watch.