Patrick B. Pexton, whom Ethics Alarms dubbed The Worst Ombudsman Ever last Fall, has cemented his title with yet another example of bias and incompetence. By rights, he should be in a spirited battle for WOE with New York Times “public editor” (a.k.a ombudsman ) Clark Hoyt, who, among other derelictions of duty, has refused to criticize Times columnist Charles M. Blow for blatant anti-Morman bigotry. At least Hoyt writes about journalistic ethics, which is his (and Pexton’s) job to do, though not always well. The ombudsman’s proper role in any organization is to serve the public interest by answering and resolving complaints against the organization, calling foul when the organization does wrong, and making standards clear when it does not. In a new organization, the ombudsman is the guardian of journalistic ethics, and all that implies, from fairness to objectivity to competence. Pexton seems to see his function as an advocate for the Post when it is under attack, and for the Obama Administration when the opportunity presents itself. That does not serve the public interest.
Thus it is that Pexton has written a bizarre and gratuitous defense of a Post story that went viral on the internet, arguing that it wasn’t the Post’s fault that so many people paid attention to it, that the story was no big deal, really, and that “only our reactive, partisan, hyperventilating media culture” made it one. Isn’t that strange? A newspaper’s story gets quoted and circulated, and its ombudsman feels that he has to apologize for it? What was the matter with the story? Was it wrong? That would justify Pexton’s professional <Cough!> attentions. Well, no, it wasn’t wrong. Was it unfair? Er, not really, no. What then?
What was wrong with the story was that it validated a complaint from conservatives, bloggers, and fair-minded observers who don’t appreciate being spun and lied to, that indeed the health care reform bill, the Affordable Care Act, will not reduce the deficit, as the nation was promised when it was being rammed through Congress, but will add $340 billion to it or more. This is as every clear-eyed or objective analyst predicted, as experience dictated and as common sense made obvious when the bill was being debated. Now the figures show that the criticism of the law was right all along. Can’t have that, now, can we? The Post and Pexton were obviously bombarded by complaints from Obama loyalists, activists and spin-masters who couldn’t abide one of the nation’s per-eminent Democratic cheering sections actually admitting that critics of ACA were right, so Pexton decided to take on damage control….even though doing so is not germane to his function. But then, he is the Worst Ombudsman Ever.
For what does this have to do with ethics? Nothing. It does show appalling bias by the one Post staffer who is supposed to actively combat bias, however. It also shows that the Washington Post is willing to minimize its own achievements and integrity in reporting facts so it can maintain its credentials as a Democratic ally. That is an unethical mindset that implicates the Post’s trustworthiness. If only Pexton was capable of writing about that. But he isn’t, or isn’t interested in doing so….because he is The Worst Ombudsman Ever.
Pexton argues that the story didn’t deserve all the play it received, because it was “minor.” Minor? The story gave substance to the claim, derided and ridiculed by, among others, commenters on this blog, that the insistence of Pelosi, Reid, and others that Obamacare would reduce the deficit were intentionally deceptive subterfuge to influence public opinion and get the damn bill, which nobody could read, passed. Which they were. There was never a doubt about that in my mind, and that lack of doubt was based on objectivity and logic, not politics. Yet for more than a year, I and admittedly more politically-motivated critics who maintained the same thing have been ridiculed and called unfair and worse for trying to state the obvious.
Was a Washington Post story citing a study as making a persuasive case that we were, in fact, not fools and liars, but rather showing that our diagnosis of an organized, cynical and media-abetted public misrepresentation by Democrats was accurate more than a “small story”? Of course it was.
Pexton, however, brushes it all aside, while making excuses for the Obama Administration, in classic Democratic Party talking point form:
“The truth is that every complex law change, every annual federal budget, is a risk. They’re all based on assumptions and forecasts that may or may not come true. And when they don’t, Congress and the president have to adjust.”
Here is what happened:
Democrats: The health care bill will save money. The CBO says we’re right.
Critics: Oh, please! The CBO was dealing with cooked figures and you know it! No law this sweeping has ever failed to raise the deficit.
Democrats: You’re lying and scaremongering! The CBO’s estimate shows that the law will reduce the deficit!
Critics: You know your figures are fake, and you are criticizing us? Stop deceiving the public. Sooner or later, the truth will come out.
The Truth Comes Out.
Democrats…and the Worst Ombudsman Ever: So what? Plus $340 billion, minus $340 billion, whatever…No projections are perfect.
The figures were deceptive, and sold to the public as “non-partisan” fact. Those who flagged the deceit were attacked. The figures prove to be exactly as deceptive as the critics said, and the ombudsman for the prestigious Washington Post devoted a column defending the original misrepresentation, and minimizing his own paper’s story that exposed it.
Why does he do this?
Because he’s The Worst Ombudsman Ever!