Ethics Hero: CNN’s Anderson Cooper

Will wonders never cease —- an outbreak of legitimate, fair and balanced journalism on CNN!

Once again, I find myself in the conflicted position of bestowing Ethics Hero status on someone who did no more than meet his professional duties. This is broadcast journalism we are talking about, however, where unbiased professionalism is as rare as the ivory-beaked woodpecker. Anderson Cooper may have been just doing his job, but he was doing it well and ethically, which means that he qualifies as a promising role model as we head into the ugliness that promises to be the 2012 campaign.

Cooper’s moment of professional glory arrived when he hosted a spokesman from, which has launched a typically shrill ad that accuses the Republican House of waging a “war on women” by  voting to eliminate the Obamacare’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. The cut was made to pay for the Interest Rate Reduction Act, which extends the 3.4% interest rate on subsidized student loans that was scheduled to double in July, for another year. Although the health care law states the fund is to be used “for prevention, wellness, and public health activities including prevention research, health screenings, and initiatives, such as the Community Transformation grant program, the Education and Outreach Campaign Regarding Preventive Benefits, and immunization programs,” the White House, and its allies like Move-On, are making the claim that the GOP is pitting students against women, and that the eliminated fund shows that there is indeed a Republican “war on women.”

Rather than allow his show to be turned into a passive vehicle for a Democratic shill to spew campaign talking points, Cooper astonished the Move-On rep by having done his homework. He had in hand the analysis done by, the one relatively non-partisan fact-checking operation, which concluded that…

“Republicans are right: The White House is greatly exaggerating when it says that “women, in particular,” benefit from a prevention fund that the House GOP proposes to repeal. The truth is that the fund in question wasn’t set up specifically for women’s health programs, and we could find no concrete evidence that it has paid anything to gender-specific health programs so far.”

“Greatly exaggerating” as in lying. The Move-On guest was lying too. Cooper took him completely by surprise—I was reminded of the Fox interview in which the despicable Dick Morris sputtered with indignation over getting tough questions from Gretta Van Susteran, telling her that Fox News anchors weren’t supposed to treat conservatives “this way,” as in objectively. When Cooperpresented him with the data out of the following section of the FactCheck piece, his guest had no answer, only Morris-like shock and indignation:

“White House itself has proposed cutting this very same fund. The president’s fiscal 2013 budget proposes to slash $4 billion from the fund over 10 years. Furthermore, in February, Democrats agreed to a $5 billion cut in the fund to help pay for extending a payroll tax cut and delaying a reduction in Medicare payment to physicians. That bill passed with bipartisan support.”

Cooper asked if Move-On had run an ad accusing the President of a “war on women” for proposing cuts in the same program. Was Obama waging a war on women when he proposes such cuts, Cooper wondered.  Of course not, said the shill.

“But Republicans are,” concluded Cooper.

Game, set, match, Ethics Hero award. Before he went over to the Dark Side, Chris Matthews was once similarly inhospitable to guests of either party persuasion who set out to mislead his audience. Maybe Anderson Cooper’s display of serious and responsible journalism will start a trend.

We can dream.

You can watch the exchange here.


Pointer: Chris Plante


Graphic: Business Insider

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

14 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: CNN’s Anderson Cooper

  1. Nice find, Jack.

    Watch the clip, folks. Cooper pinned the little twerp’s ears back. It’s a beautiful thing.

  2. I caught this when it was telecast. I agree that Cooper is pretty fair. but I was surprised at the time at how well prepared he was. I think there are a few on CNN, including Don Lemon, Candy Crowley, and maybe a couple more.

      • I think you’re “misunderestimating” Kelly there, Jack. She may have been initially hired for her looks but she’s proven to be a pretty dogged reporter and anchor.

        Besides, she’s another lawyer who has found a better life outside of the profession. Figured that’d count for something with you.

        No disrespect from Crowley there, BTW. Agree she’s a solid reporter.

        • I’m saying that if Kelly looked like Candy, no way in hell that she would be hosting a news hour on Bimbo Central Fox. I think that’s undeniable. Sure, she’s good. So are about 250 others, who look lousy in a bathing suit.

  3. Preventitive health costs less in the long-run than treating disease & losing the productivity of the chronically ill. Both cutting the preventative health fund & dipping into it to cover the cost of maintaining low student loan interest rates are tragic. (I paid back my grad school low-interest gov. loan, & my daughters’ undergrad ones. They made higher ed. possible for our family.) Might the real ethical question be, why are preventative health funds & student loans at risk when there are subsidies for oil companies, tax breaks for big business not tied to reinvesting in jobs & capital investment, & tax burdens falling most heavily on the middle class?
    How each party will lower the deficit while promoting policies & programs for insuring healthier, more educated, more ethical citizens should be the “scorecard”. Instead of exchanging cheap shots, could candidates explain how they will work together to: cut what does not benefit those struggling in & aspiring to the middle class, & scale-up what does work based on research?

    • In a word? No.

      The government spends too much by billions and billions, AND has to collect more taxes to pay down the debt. All responsible choices involve trade-offs at this point, and every interest and individual hurt can make exactly the same arguments. Deferring the interest increase costs money, and the government can no longer ignore having to pay for what it spends. The fund that was cut was an add-on to begin with, that the country already couldn’t afford.

      The top 10% of the populace pays 80% of the Federal income tax—saying that the tax burden falls “most heavily on the middle class” is political rhetoric.

      Everyone has to sacrifice and do with less, including students. That’s the fair price of electing irresponsible leaders for the past 40 years.

    • That’s a rather large metallic container of annelids you just opened there, Stephanie. Let’s start with the point that “subsidies for oil companies” is political rhetoric, not fact (the “subsidy” in question is actually a tax credit that dates back several generations). Citing tax breaks for “big business not tied to reinvesting in jobs and capital” has similar issues. And as long as we’re talking government playing favorites, why is government in the business of “investing” in private companies that private capital decided was a bad bet (SEE: Solyndra and the wind power project nearest you).

      Jack is squarely on the money in his response to you. And I’ll leave your concept that “preventive health costs less in the long run” for another day, other than to note that beyond the control of infectious disease through vaccination – a preventive program – any government-mandated health program centering on prevention will, ultimately, be coercive and a violation of civil liberties.

  4. Have things changed since the fall of 2011 when Wall Street Journal reported ? …

    “Corporations have a higher share of cash on their balance sheets than at any time in nearly half a century, as businesses build up buffers rather than invest in new plants or hiring.

    Nonfinancial companies held more than $2 trillion in cash and other liquid assets at the end of June, the Federal Reserve reported Friday, up more than $88 billion from the end of March. Cash accounted for 7.1% of all company assets, everything from buildings to bonds, the highest level since 1963.”

  5. For guys who are into ethics I’m surprised by the liberal use of condescending remarks in this blog. One more try…

    Arthur in Maine commented: “Let’s start with the point that ‘subsidies for oil companies’ is political rhetoric, not fact (the “subsidy” in question is actually a tax credit that dates back several generations). Citing tax breaks for ‘big business not tied to reinvesting in jobs and capital” has similar issues.'”

    I responded to Arthur that my “political rhetoric” was based on facts cited in 2011 Wall Street Journal article on Federal Reserve Board report (see above). I asked if the data about large corporation has changed, suspecting that trickle-down economics has failed. The question was respectfully asked, & I naively expected a thoughtful response. Instead Jack wrote: “And not only that…will the San Diego Padres ever find an offense? What in heaven’s name does this comment have to do with the post?”

    Inspite of the sarcasm, I’ll try to explain. Jack, you commented: “Everyone has to sacrifice and do with less, including students. That’s the fair price of electing irresponsible leaders for the past 40 years.” I agree, however, the “sacrifices” made by a minority of citizens mean they have to delay a home renovation or a vacation trip (oh, such painful “trade-offs”). On the other hand, for the vast majority of Americans the “sacrifices” run far deeper … not being able to afford such “luxuries” for their children as college or preventative dental care. Furthermore, according to the WSJ article, large corporations certainly haven’t “sacrificed” in terms of hiring & investing in new plants. In urging sacrifices for the common weal, Jack, might it be ethical to advocate for the depth & breadth of sacrifices made by the so-called Greatest Generation during the Depression & WWII?

    • Stephanie, I didn’t respond for what I suspect is the same reason Jack made his Padres comment- your post was vague enough to have done the Oracle at Delphi proud.

      Now that you’ve clarified – and thanks for that – let’s address the issue of why companies are sitting on huge bundles of cash.

      In a few words, they’re doing it because they’re scared. And they’re scared because they have NO idea what to expect going forward. Current US policies towards energy… the increasing number of hoops through which companies must jump in the regulatory climate… the still incompletely understood impacts of Obamacare… concerns over European debt; a very weak recovery here and a government that borrows forty cents of every dollar it spends… Let me ask you this: if you ran a large company with a lot of employees and an obligation to your shareholders, would YOU bet a sizeable amount of your reserves on an unsure thing?

      They wouldn’t either. And they’re being responsible by not doing so.

    • Stephanie: I was genuinely puzzled by your comment, hence the Padres comment. The post was about Anderson Cooper being a responsible journalist, and his guest misrepresenting legislation. The cash surpluses of American companies are no more relevant than the travails of the Padres.

      That said, companies are not morally or ethically obligated to hire people to do jobs that don’t need to be done. The President stunned me by suggesting otherwise in a meeting with executives. It’s pretty simple: when there are jobs to be done, things to be made, services to perform based on demonstrable demand, companies hire people. Companies that hire unnecessary employees lose money, lose investors, and go out of business. Companies should allocate salaries and benefits fairly, and criticism on that score is 100% justified, but the idea that companies should add jobs that don’t need to be done as a “sacrifice” is certifiable bats, and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what companies exist to do. They are not, and should not be, public welfare organizations, and giving people jobs isn’t a legitimate or ethical form of charity. It’s irresponsible and incompetent, and nothing less.

      NOT hiring when there aren’t enough people employed to do the company’s business right and efficiently is also irresponsible and incompetent. That is a different issue, however.

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