By Frank York
The notice announced that Multnomah Publishing was returning publishing rights to self-styled parenting expert Gary Ezzo, author of such bestselling books as On Becoming Babywise and On Becoming Babywise II. *
Although Mr. Ezzo was one of Multnomah's A-list authors, the publisher decided to drop him as an author after an internal investigation was conducted of claims of medical misinformation in his books as well as serious character problems involving him.
Apparently, in an effort to protect itself from potential legal liability for publishing medically inaccurate information, Multnomah announced its decision to drop Ezzo in carefully nuanced and vague terms.
The statement blamed Mr. Ezzo's critics for being unwilling to meet with Ezzo at a "reconciliation" meeting hosted by Multnomah officials. The statement gave the impression that the critics' refusal to meet was the reason that Multnomah decided to drop him as an author. This is a nonsensical explanation.
In addition, his critics had made it perfectly clear to Multnomah in an Open Letter why they would not meet with Ezzo. They pointed out that Ezzo frequently uses meetings of this kind as a public relations ploy to claim that his critics are unreasonable and unwilling to "reconcile." He used this ploy with Grace Community Church leaders after they publicly rebuked him several years ago.
The Multnomah statement noted: "While Mr. Ezzo has done everything we asked him to do, both Mr. Ezzo and Multnomah believe the process has gone as far as it can. Having come to that point, Mr. Ezzo and Multnomah mutually agreed to return the publishing rights back to the author." Again, this is a nonsensical statement.
As a former book editor and as the author of 12 books over the past 20 years, I can say with certainty that no rational publisher would drop an author simply because critics of his materials refused to meet with him for a "reconciliation" meeting.
Publishers thrive on controversy. What they do fear, however, are factual errors in their books--which could lead to costly lawsuits. Medical errors involving newborn infants would be especially troublesome for a reputable publisher.
The more plausible reason that Multnomah dropped Ezzo was hinted at by Jeff Gerke, a former editor at Multnomah who had conducted the investigation into the charges against Ezzo. The decision to drop Gary had been made as early as March, 2001 when Multnomah Vice President Kyle Cummings called Ezzo and told him of the decision. After gathering information on Ezzo from his critics, several of Gerke's emails were leaked to Christianity Today. In one of those emails, Gerke said: "I'm personally convinced Gary Ezzo and his infant care materials are dangerous. He has no medical training and therefore no business writing medical books--or disregarding the advice of bona fide medical professionals."
To be fair, pediatrician Dr. Robert Bucknam is listed as a co-author of Babywise, but his name was added only after the content of Babywise had been written in a religious version known as Preparation for Parenting. Bucknam had been in practice as a pediatrician only one year after his residency when Ezzo added his name to the book. The advice given in Babywise is almost universally condemned by the majority of pediatricians, pediatric organizations, and by lactation experts.
Jeff Gerke admitted in one email that Multnomah had no medical editor to review Ezzo's medical information. Gerke was originally an Ezzo partisan at Multnomah, but as he continued to investigate the charges against Ezzo, he changed his mind and submitted a brutally honest report to Multnomah leaders. In an email leaked to Christianity Today, Gerke told Ezzo critic Dr. Matthew Aney: "We weren't really feeling the need to do an 'unbiased investigation'," said Gerke. "We were just trying to field complaints. I think we started the investigation merely so that we could say that we'd truly looked into it. We believed we would find verification for Gary's explanations. We believed we would put out a statement and go our merry way." Gerke lost his job at Multnomah shortly after his emails were published in Christianity Today.
When Ezzo was contacted by Christianity Today in March, 2001 to get a comment from him about Multnomah's impending decision to drop him, he refused to discuss the publisher's decision. Yet, on September 12, 2001, a day after the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history, Multnomah announced its decision to drop him. If not deliberate, the timing of the publication of this statement was certainly helpful in minimizing public attention.
Ezzo Creates Two Paper Organizations For His Vanity Press
After losing his contract with Multnomah, Ezzo dropped his incorporation of Growing Families International in California and re-established this for-profit organization in Missouri. He also formed two paper front groups called Charleston Publishing Group, Inc., and Parent-Wise Solutions, Inc. These two organizations exist as legal entities on paper but not as real publishing companies. They are both listed as "Fictitious Name Registrations" in Missouri.
According to records from the Missouri Office of the Secretary of State, all three of these Ezzo groups were established on February 28, 2002.
Ezzo's self-publishing venture, known as a "vanity press," is Charleston Publishing Group and Parent-Wise Solutions. Parent-Wise is billed as a "division" of Charleston. Both list their "corporate" address as Gary Ezzo's former home in Chatsworth, California. The Ezzos sold this home in early 2003, having moved to Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina in August, 2002.
By the time he was moving his operation to South Carolina, Ezzo was operating GFI out of his garage in Chatsworth, California and had only one employee. GFI had approximately 35 employees in 1998 and operated out of an office and warehouse complex in Simi Valley, California.
Growing Families International, Inc., lists Gary Ezzo as the President of GFI and his wife as Secretary, according to the Missouri Secretary of State's Annual Registration Report dated April 3, 2003. Gary and Anne Marie are also listed as the only two Board Members of GFI. This, of course, gives them total control over the organization and no accountability for how funds are spent--reinforcing longstanding concerns about accountability that have been raised by critics of his operation. (Although GFI is clearly a for-profit company, Ezzo continues to refer to it as a "ministry" in his published materials. The GFI web site article, "How did GFI get started," for example, refers to GFI as a ministry.)
Parent-Wise Solutions Listed As Division Of A Larger Company
In the 2001 "revised and updated" edition of On Becoming Babywise, the copyright page states that "ON BECOMING BABYWISE" is published by Parent-Wise Solutions, Inc., and notes further down on the page: "Parent-Wise Solutions, Inc. is a division of the Charleston Publishing Group, Inc." As noted earlier, both are legal entities on paper but do not exist as real publishing companies like Multnomah-with buildings and personnel.
In the "Acknowledgment" in the 2001 edition, Gary Ezzo notes: "This edition not only reflects advancements over previous editions, but also the work of a new publisher, Parent-Wise Solutions, Inc. Overall, this edition brings the same message, but better said."
A typical reader of this sentence could reasonably conclude that Parent-Wise Solutions, Inc. is a separate entity from Gary Ezzo or Growing Families International. This message is also promoted on the Parent-Wise Solutions, Inc., web site. The introductory statement on the site says: "Parent-Wise Solutions provides parents with practical principles for raising children from birth through the teen years. Our heritage includes the acquisition of five of the most popular titles in all of contemporary parenting. [Emphasis added.] Influenced by our authors, are over two million households and 4 million children, in more than 25 countries."
By stating that Parent-Wise Solutions, Inc., "acquired" five Ezzo books, the reader is again led to believe that this company is separate from Ezzo himself. The truth is that his former publisher dropped him and returned the publishing rights to him. The fact is that Parent-Wise Solutions IS Gary Ezzo.
Orders for Parent-Wise Solutions, Inc. books are handled through a sales group in Sisters, Oregon, called Hawksflight and Associates. This company is run by Blake Weber, a former Multnomah sales representative who is also an Ezzo partisan. Weber is the nephew of Multnomah Vice President Eric Weber and is the son of Christian book author Stu Weber.
In short, Ezzo's vanity press is being presented as a division of a larger publishing company, which doesn't really exist-except on paper-with the Missouri Secretary of State's office.
There is nothing inherently wrong with self-publishing, but Gary Ezzo seems to have gone out of his way to hide the fact that his former publisher dropped him after investigating both the medical misinformation and character issues surrounding his books.
Likewise, the wording on his copyright page and acknowledgment in the 2001 edition of On Becoming Babywise and on the Parent-Wise Solutions, Inc., web site lead a reader to think that this is a real publishing company-and part of a larger company known as Charleston Publishing Group.
What should this mean to potential purchasers of his books? It means that Gary Ezzo now has far less accountability for accuracy in his books than he ever had before. If Multnomah dropped him over concerns about medical misinformation in his books, potential customers should heed the warning: Let The Buyer Beware!
*United Press International's Booklist published on October 26, 2001, listed Babywise as the Number 3 bestseller under the Trade Paperback category.
Frank York is the former editorial director with Growing Families International and details his experiences working with Gary Ezzo over a two-year period in "Adventure in Ezzoland," published in the Spring of 2002 by Midwest Christian Outreach (MCO), a cult-watch group based in Illinois. He also a regular contributor to "ezzo.info," a web site designed to present factual information about Ezzo parenting. York has also served as a book editor with a Boston publishing company and worked as a magazine editor at Focus on the Family for eight years. In addition, he has written 12 books during the last 20 years. His latest, Protecting Your Child In An X-Rated World with lawyer Jan LaRue, shows parents how to protect their children against the scourge of pornography. It was published by Focus on the Family/Tyndale Publishers in 2002.