Friday, March 27, 2009

Peter Pitts in a Pickle with Journalists and Catholics

I read with amusement Jim Edwards account of the brouhaha over conflict of interest disclosures relating to Peter Pitts, the star blogger over at Drug Wonks. You can read it on Pharma BNet: "NPR Producer Gets Apology Over Goodwin Affair; Says Peter Pitts Not Upfront About Ties to Eli Lilly."

What I find amusing is that a "seasoned journalist, a Columbia Journalism graduate" would take at face value Pitts' PR agency's pitch, which simply states "Peter Pitts, former associate commissioner for the FDA, and co-founder of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI)."

The "seasoned journalist" in question, a producer of the NPR show that had Pitts as a guest, "swears [Pitts] did not disclose to her that he was a PR person for pharma; if he did, alarm bells certainly would have gone off..." Sure, sure.

Pitts claims he DID tell her. He said, she said...

I have to agree with Jim, a "seasoned" journalist should have known all about Pitts, pharma's pit-dog. Pitts has been outed as a shill for pharma many times in the Pharma Blogosphere (see, for example, "CMPI, aka DrugWonks, is a 'breeding ground for industry moles'").

If us lowly, non-journalist bloggers know all about Pitts' ties to the drug industry, why didn't a "seasoned journalist" know?

But, I don't mind that Pitts has ties to the pharmaceutical industry although a little more transparency on his part would help.

What I DO mind, however, is how Pitts attacked Bill Lichtenstein, the lead NPR producer who defended his co-producer quoted above. Pitts asked if Lichtenstein had given "up crow for Lent" because he wouldn't admit that Pitts revealed his drug industry ties to him.

I don't like that Pitts brings up Lent in his attack on Lictenstein. Does Pitt know something I don't know? Is Lictenstein Catholic? Is Pitts anti-Catholic?

This is the second time I've heard giving up something for Lent as part of a joke within a pharmaceutical context. I don't happen to think it's funny, not to us Catholics.

Let's leave religion out of our attacks, please.


  1. Anonymous10:52 AM

    pitts is the pitts.

  2. Anonymous11:03 AM

    plus, thanks to this thing called the internet (which, it turns out, is good for more than just porn), we can all read about pitts and his shady, shady behavior and lack of integrity.

    ain't that a bitch, peter? cuz i know you're reading this. peter, paul and mary should all read it.

    sorry john -- i couldn't help myself just now.

  3. Just saw your posting. Below is the response I left on the BNET article you referenced. Best, BL

    For the record:

    1) I sent you my comments on Peter Pitts because you asked me about him, not because I spend my time writing to blogs about his issues. ("Lichtenstein continues to insist in emails ...")

    2) While it may be true that Pitts' relationship to pharma is well-known now, it was less so a year ago when we did our story, before he was Googled by thousands of people as a result of The Infinite Mind matter, which served to highlight the sites with his PR connection on them. As I pointed out, we found his name in an article about an FDA action, and contacted him as he was the "go-to" guy on that matter. We were not aware of his pharmaceutical/PR connections, although we should have been. Furthermore, and I wish you had printed this part of my email, we were guilty of the same omission as NPR, PBS's Newshour and Newsday when they interviewed him, and failed to note his pharma connections. It was an oversight, but, I believe, one fueled by the fact that Pitts promotes himself as a former government official and non-profit expert, with no mention of his PR activities.

    Finally, with regard to his Lent comment, I will leave it to others to respond. I know Peter likely thought it was cute, but I see no reason to bring religion in this matter.


    Bill Lichtenstein

  4. Bill,

    Thanks for your comment, but you really should address most of your remarks to fellow-journalist Jim Edwards because I don't spend my time responding to journalists.

    But I should point out that we bloggers knew about Pitts way back in January 2008, which sounds like it pre-dates the "year ago" you're talking about.

    And I agree with you about leaving religion out of it. That was half the point I made in my post, if you read all the way to the end of it.

  5. My bad! I see you just cc'ed me on the comment you made to Jim.


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