Election Publicity Hound Ethics Quiz: Whose “October Surprise” Was Dirtier?

That’s Gloria on the left, Donald on the right.

What could be more challenging than trying to choose between Gloria Allred and Donald Trump in the field of inappropriate and shameless headline grabbing?

Both Trump and Allred this week decided to distract voters from the solemn and difficult job of deciding which Presidential candidate’s misrepresentations to forgive by trumpeting an upcoming “October Surprise” that would propel their respective champions to victory. In addition, both are shameless using the election to get their names in the papers for pure personal publicity purposes, to attack Obama or Romney using innuendo, and to attempt to skew a close election by using old matters far past their pull date. The tactic worked for both publicity hounds, because an October surprise in 2000, held for months and leaked by a Gore operative, probably cost George W. Bush the popular vote: his covered up DWI arrest of more than a decade earlier.

Your test: whose attempted late hit was more unethical? We will stipulate that both are revolting. The candidates:

In this corner, wearing gold sequined trunks, is The Donald. Monday, he promised an earth-shattering  announcement Wednesday, telling the goofs on “Fox and Friends” that he had “something very, very big concerning the President of the United States.” Wednesday came, and all Trump could muster was a pathetic challenge, delivered in a video. In it, Trump said, “Now, I have a deal for the President. … If Barack Obama opens up and gives his college records and applications, and if he gives his passport applications and records, I will give to a charity of his choice — inner city children in Chicago, American Cancer Society, AIDS research, anything he wants, a check, immediately, for $5 million.”

In the other corner, wearing her trademark red, is feminist provocateur Gloria Allred. She stuck her nose into a political race once before, when she dredged up a former illegal immigrant who worked for California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman as a domestic worker for many years. Since Whitman had pledged to be tough on employers who hired illegals, Allred’s plan was to show that Whitman knew about the maid’s status, though it was unclear whether Whitman or just her husband were involved in the details of her hiring. The maid had lied, and presented false documents, and legal experts fenced over whether the Whitmans had a duty to investigate further, or whether to do so would have been discriminatory.  This is Allred’s MO, however: certainty isn’t necessary. Just raise doubts. And make sure they spell your name right in the papers. This week, Allred revealed another woman scorned: Margaret Sullivan, who has been fuming for years over the injustice of the divorce decree that ended her marriage to Staples founder Tom Stemberg. She’s furious at Romney too, because he testified at the trial when he was Chairman of Bain Capital. The proceedings were sealed, and participants were ordered not to discuss the particulars of the case. Allred’s plan: work with the Boston Globe to get the gag rule lifted and the transcript released. After all, opening sealed divorce proceedings worked for Obama before, when the testimony in the nasty divorce of his favored U.S. Senate opponent, Jack Ryan, was revealed, showing him to be both into wife-swapping and an idiot, since the wife he wanted to swap was Jeri Ryan, known to Star Trek fans as the heart-stopping “7 of 9.” Gloria’s efforts suggested to voters that there was something dastardly about Mitt’s testimony, and, of course, it proves again that he hates women, since he testified against one. You know how those rich guys are.

Your Ethics Alarms Quiz: Whose October Surprise is worse?

My answer? Let’s see:

  • Both plans fizzled. The court released the transcript but refused to lift that gag order. The transcript contains nothing that any sane voter would care anything about, nor does it reflect badly on Romney.
  • Both were misrepresented by their advocates, Trump and Allred, as significant and game-changing when they were not.
  • Both wasted time and space.
  • Both were simply efforts to impugn a candidate by suggestion, with nothing substantive to justify it.
  • Both were designed to appeal to the worst biases of the crazy bases of the two parties. Trump was appealing to conservatives who think Obama was an academic fraud who isn’t a natural born citizen. Allred wanted to bolster the absurd “war on women” smear.

Nevertheless, Trump wins. He’s even more shameless than Allred. His promise on Fox was a lie: he had nothing. His offer was just another birther accusation. It was despicable for Trump to raise these conspiracy theories attacking President Obama’s credentials and legitimacy in the first place, and doubly obnoxious to raise them now. The theory that makes Trump’s foolishness seem least offensive is the one that posits that he was just trying to diminish Gloria’s grab for the spotlight. I wouldn’t put it past him, but foiling Allred doesn’t justify impugning the President…again.

They are both awful.

Trump is worse.



14 thoughts on “Election Publicity Hound Ethics Quiz: Whose “October Surprise” Was Dirtier?

  1. Agree both are shameless. Allred, however, is supposed to represent a profession that touts it’s accountability. Trump doesn’t AFAIK. Wouldn’t that tip the scale?

    • That’s along the lines of my thinking, 49er. The Donald makes waves because he enjoys being flamboyant and, I guess, because he thinks it’s expected of him. He hardly needs to profit from it! Allred, on the other hand, is not only a licensed “officer of the court”, she’s also a self-promoting panderer who seeks to profit from her clents and antics… while further denigrating a profession that’s already close to an ethical rock bottom as it is. I can live with Trump. Gloria ought to be dropped on Gilligan’s Island along with her previous clients!

    • Allred takes some offensive clients, but if the spurned wife in this case seeks a vendetta against Mitt Romney because he testified against her interests in a divorce, that’s a legal, if unethical objective, and she has a right to seek to have the gag order lifted and the seal broken. There is nothing unethical about representing her–she has a right to have a competent lawyer. Representing her is no different from representing any person with an agenda. The fact that Allred may share the agenda for other reasons doesn’t make the mere representation unethical as a matter of legal ethics. Taking on awful clients is what lawyers do, including good lawyers. Allred intentionally attracts such people for her own purposes, and that’s one of the things that makes her loathsome.

  2. Much as I wish there was something to alien abduction stories and this pair would be the next to go, I vote for Allred. Trump has plenty of dough, and he does this schtick for purposes of ego and self-amusement, however perverse said self-amusement might be.

    Allred does it to drive business.

    BTW, my gut tells me The Hairpiece – er, I mean The Donald – thought he had something much bigger than this and found out shortly before his “announcement” that his supposed dirt had more holes in it than Blackburn, Lancashire. His “big announcement” was a nothingburger. He may be a nutball conspiracy theorist, but he usually picks the right wave to surf.

  3. I’d say Trump’s takes the cake. Allred’s although shameless and unethical never woul carry weight. Because no one cares.

    Trump’s action? The moral equivalent of a hostage taker.
    Although not withholding money already destined for a charity as would match the hostage takers methods, simply by saying he could but won’t is the same thing. It certainly is an odd kind of blackmail.

    Additionally, whether or not the $5 mil is readily available to toss at a charity, Trump says its available. Ok, jerk, then give the money to the charity, if it is so much of a chump change you can dangle it around politically.

  4. It was also Gloria Allred who “represented” Ginger White, the alleged mistress of Herman Caine, Republican presidential hopeful. Again, very convenient timing and nothing really substantial came out of it. Caine did withdraw from the race, however, citing the strain on his family.

  5. Let’s not forget Gloria’s little caper in California a few years back. She seems to be specializing in creating embarrassing scenarios- often manufactured- for Republican candidates at a time when it’s virtually impossible for them to answer fully to the media barrage that follows. I guess that “lawyer to the stars” bit just wasn’t enough for her, anymore.

  6. In light of how weak Trump’s effort was, I wonder if it was partially intended to suck some of the air out of Gloria’s announcement.

    • I’ve heard this hypothesis. Or, it could be that Trump’s bombshell was the Obama’s never-completed divorce papers, which the Romney campaign correctly spurned. But based on past conduct, I’m comfortable concluding that, once again, Trump was just being who he is—a self-centered, irresponsible, shameless jerk.

  7. I think I’d have to vote Allred. Trump’s never pretended he wasn’t a birther, and although the ballyhoo makes it very distasteful, he’s not bringing up a new point – Obama’s transcripts are sealed. Whether that’s IMPORTANT to some people or not is a matter of personal opinion – and it’s obvious that it’s important to very few people.

    Allred, on the other hand, is (once again) representing a scorned woman with an unsubstantiated tale from yesteryear – and the fact that there was nothing there tells me she was bluffing. I don’t think she wanted anything released, she wanted a sealed mysterious cloud of doom to hang over his head. It worked with Cain, why not try it again?

  8. Dirtier: Allred’s. Clearly the amoral scheming of an assassin in her.
    Meaner/closer to illegal: Trump’s. Extortion by tycoons is still extortion.

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