Skip to Content

Malcolm Gladwell

Staff writer, The New Yorker; Best-selling Author

Malcolm Gladwell began as a college right-wing Reagan supporter, was trained by the tobacco-funded far-right National Journalism Center, and throughout his career has inserted pro-tobacco, pro-banking industry and pro-PHARMA messages into his books and articles. Gladwell can earn $1 million a year as a paid corporate speaker, sometimes from the very same corporations and industry groups he happens to promote and defend in print.

The recovered history of Malcolm Gladwell

  • During college, Gladwell received journalism training at the National Journalism Center, an outfit that worked with the tobacco industry “to train budding journalists . . .  to get across our side of the story," according to an internal Philip Morris document.
  • After college, Gladwell worked at the right-wing American Spectator, the Moonie-owned Insight and a neocon-Christian fundamentalist thinktank called the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which was “established by neoconservatives to promote an increased role of religion in public policy and turn back the influence of secularism.”
  • In 1990, a Gladwell article in the Washington Post warned that laws banning cigarettes could “put a serious strain on the nation’s Social Security and Medicare programs.” For evidence, Gladwell cited an old “study” churned out by a thinktank with known connections to Big Tobacco.
  • In his book The Tipping Point, Gladwell blamed children for getting themselves addicted to tobacco and absolved tobacco industry advertising campaigns of guilt. However, confidential Philip Morris documents bragged, “Marlboro’s phenomenal growth rate in the past has been attributable in large part to our high market penetration among young smokers . . . 15 to 19 years old.”
  • A confidential Philip Morris document from the mid-1990s named Malcolm Gladwell as one of the tobacco industry’s top covert media assets. This roster of “Third Party Advocates” was a who's who list of known corporate shills, including Bush press secretary/Fox News anchor Tony Snow, Grover Norquist, Milton Friedman and Ed Feulner, head of the Heritage Foundation. In journalism terms, a “Third Party Advocate” means “fraud.”
  • In 1999, Gladwell wrote a New Yorker article defending the explosion of ADHD amphetamine prescriptions to children against criticism from media and public figures. Gladwell’s response: “...are too many children taking the drug—or too few?”
  • In 2004, Gladwell was forced to end a business partnership he had formed with a market research company after David Carr of the New York Timesexposed the relationship and criticized "Mr. Gladwell's dual career as both a marketer and a writer . . ."
  • Later that same year, Gladwell published a New Yorker piece that blamed skyrocketing prescription drug prices on users of prescription drugs, not on pharmaceutical companies. New Yorker readers responded angrily, tipping off Slate.com columnist Jack Schafer that Gladwell took "speaking fees from corporations and trade associations" that he covered in print, forcing Gladwell to publicly admit that he had had indeed taken money from the pharmaceutical industry: “Have I given paid speeches to companies or industries mentioned or affected by that article? Yes I have.”
  • In 2005, Gladwell was paid to speak at a Philip Morris recruitment event. The company described the gig in its "highly confidential" 2005 performance summary: "Our efforts to develop world-class leaders remain a priority. PM USA continued to enhance its leadership development efforts by introducing new sales training programs, increasing the number of employees who have facilitated and attended our leadership development programs and revamping our recruiting efforts. . . . The program was attended by members of PM USA's senior leadership team and included an overview of PM USA, our Mission and core strategies, a tour of the factory, a lecture by best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell and two evening dinner receptions. Based on formal evaluation surveys and subsequent discussions and communications with the attendees, the event was very well perceived and rated by the attendees and is having a positive impact on our ongoing recruiting efforts."
  • In an email exchange with S.H.A.M.E. Gladwell would not directly admit that he spoke at a Philip Morris event, and instead referred to Philip Morris as "a company with an interest in the tobacco business." Which is a funny way of putting it, considering that Philip Morris is the biggest tobacco company in the world, and maker of Marlboro, the best-selling cigarette brand of all time.
  • In 2007, Gladwell took up the financial industry’s cause. He argued that Enron’s investors were to blame for their losses, rather than accounting fraud, which he dismissed. His "analysis" was debunked and mocked by U.C. Berkeley Economics Professor Brad DeLong.
  • That same year, 2007, Gladwell hailed ex-Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson’s move to head the Treasury Department, praising him for being among those “self-selected toward public service. . . ” Gladwell did not mention that Paulson saved himself roughly $100 million in taxes by moving straight from Goldman Sachs to Treasury.
  • In 2011, Bank of America hired Malcolm Gladwell to take part in a multi-city speaking tour, a gig whose "entire point seemed to be to forge a public link between a tarnished brand (the bank), and a winning one (a journalist often described in profiles as the epitome of cool)," according to the Columbia Journalism ReviewWashington Post’s Melissa Bell wondered: “Malcolm Gladwell: Bank of America’s new spokesman?"

 

Be sure to check out S.H.A.M.E.'s in-depth ebook investigation into the life and corruption of Malcolm Gladwell. 

Updated on August 24, 2012

Sign up for our mailing list:

Latest Profiles

Radley Balko

Support S.H.A.M.E.

Want to pitch in? Support us now, and help strike fear into the hearts of corporate trolls. Contribute using PayPal or WePay