The Anchorage Daily News has obtained a leaked (read: stolen) manuscript of an unpublished book detailing a close former aide to Sarah Palin’s discovery of the Republican star’s many character flaws. Among other items, the book suggests that she knowingly violated federal election laws.
Now what? Let’s run down the ethical docket:
- The leaker. Public minded citizen or unethical scum? Well, the leaker stole the author’s property, and isn’t admitting to his conduct. Anonymous hit jobs are cowardly; second-hand anonymous hit jobs that require appropriating someone else’s work product is worse. The manuscript was being peddled; there was little danger that Sarah’s turncoats wouldn’t eventually get their story out.
- The Author, Frank Bailey. Whistle-blower, or disloyal and venal creep? The book reveals him as assisting Palin in breaking election laws, and staying on her staff after he was well aware of her less appealing traits. In general, tell-all books by trusted aides are unethical: the aides are allowed to see their bosses warts and all, and made privy to confidences as a necessary feature of their jobs. For them to turn around and trash their former employers out of spite or greed is a serious betrayal of trust and breach of confidence that had better be outweighed by clear-cut benefits to the public; otherwise, the revelations should wait until the main players have died off.
- Sarah Palin. Victim, or unethical politician? The incidents and observations in the book seem credible. and nothing alleged is very far out of line with what any objective observer of Palin knows, or should know, already. Still, she was betrayed by someone she trusted.
Verdict: Victim and unethical politician
- The Leak Launderers, also known as The Anchorage Daily News. Good journalists or accessories to a crime? I hate the fact that newspapers proudly publish stolen material as their own “scoops,” make money off of it, and act as if this is a noble act in the tradition of great and courageous journalists. I detest the fact that their First Amendment protection allows leakers to use the press to pursue unethical personal and political agendas while violating their ethical and legal obligations and commitments. I would like to see newspaper required to divulge their sources in such cases as this. Realistically, however, there isn’t a newspaper in the U.S. that wouldn’t write this story, and what we accept as ‘journalistic ethics” says that’s OK.
Verdict: It’s a newspaper.