I have no personal animosity against Michael Fumento, the self described “extremely pro-biotech” journalist who lost his syndicated column after Business Week revealed he’d solicited money from Monsanto. But because I took him (and other cash-for-commenters) to task at National Review Online the other week, he’s understandably very angry with me.

Last week [JAN. 25] he responded with an NRO commentary of his own called “Seipp’s Snipe.” (For which I paid him twenty bucks, some newly collectible WB totebags I had lying around and a few shares of Monsanto. Kidding!) He argued that editors there should have known “an attack on me from the right would have vastly more impact than one from the left “This is a time to band together against the witch hunters, not to succor those who aid them.”

Fumento shouldn’t have let his anger blind him to a pretty big factual blooper in his piece — that I wrote I was “falsely accused by New York Times writer Sharon Waxman of taking pay-for-play. Did it not occur to her that if she were falsely accused, others might be too?” But I never wrote I was falsely accused of taking pay-for-play; only that Sharon told me she’d heard I’d considered the offer for a few minutes, when in fact I’d turned it down flat. She didn’t accuse me of anything.

And Fumento wasn’t falsely accused. He admitted to Business Week that he’d asked Monsanto for $60,000. He thinks that because this was for a 1999 book on biotechnology and agribusiness rather than specific columns, he’s exonerated. I don’t, and neither does Scripps Howard News Service, which dropped him. I’m afraid we’ll just have to agree to disagree about that one.

In any case, I don’t believe the current pay-for-play brouhaha is a witch hunt, because while there never were any such thing as witches, there are, unfortunately, opinion writers on the take – more than I ever used to imagine. And I don’t think making excuses for them does our side of the political spectrum much good.

Anyway, when I linked the NRO piece on my blog, I used as a funny illustration a Muscle Beach-style picture from Fumento’s website, where for some reason he’d deemed it wise to pose in a skimpy swimsuit as proof against accustations that he’s fat. (He’s not, for the record, and hubba-hubba.)

Now here is where this story detours from the well-traveled road of media dustups onto a strange gender studies byway. Because somewhat to my surpise, Fumento really got his feelings hurt about my linking that picture. If he’s so sensitive about what he looks like in his bathing suit I wonder why he put it on the Internet? It’s not like I found it by hacking into his “Nudie Photos of Self” file.

I was also surprised to learn how catty men can be about what other men look like. I considered deleting some silly comments these guys posted about Fumento’s nipples, but wrongly assumed that as a former paratrooper he was tough enough to take it. After all, Ana Marie Cox (a very pretty girl, just as Fumento is a good-looking man) didn’t mind when some of my commenters got into a ridiculous discussion a few months ago about how her hair, jawline, eyes etc. failed to meet their exacting standards of female pulchritude.

Apparently, however, Miss former Wonkette’s hide isn’t as delicate as Mr. Monsanto’s. (Another situation that doesn’t flatter our side of the political spectrum, but there you have it.) My first hint of this came when a reader forwarded me Fumento’s angry response to his suggestion that the skimpy swimsuit photo wasn’t a terribly smart public image.

“Are you unaware that men wear swimsuits on the beach as well as on the cover each month of about five different ‘men’s health’ magazines?'” Fumento snapped back. “Or did the photo stir some primal urge in you? I know that when Catherine Seipp posted it on her blog, there were repeated comments on my perfectly normal nipples. What kind of man comments on another man’s nipples?”

On his website, Fumento added: “Seipp… invites readers to laugh at a 45-year-old man with no belly fat and the chest of the weight lifter I am. (I, in turn, invite readers to visit her blog and admire her photo.)”

I’ve been bemused to notice lately that these sorority slambook style attacks now come more from men than from women. One touchy men’s rights guy regularly calls me some variation of a “man-hating, peroxide feminist,” which always makes me wonder: Is that worse than being a man-hating, naturally platinum blonde feminist?

Fumento then posted my photo on his own website, asking, “Does this woman not look like a mouse that drowned in a bottle of Old Milwaukee?” Oh, snap, Endora, you got me there. But now that I think of it, maybe I was wrong that there’s no such thing as witches.

Catherine Seipp is a writer and visiting fellow with IWF. She also maintains a blog, “Cathy’s World.”