Ethics Heroes: ABC 7 (Bangor, Maine) News Anchors Cindy Michaels And Tony Consiglio

[ To those who wonder why I am posting at Ethics Alarms when it’s 4:37 on Thanksgiving morning, I can only note that when you’re staying in a hotel in Baltimore and hacking your guts out with the world’s slowest moving chest cold, and your wife is asleep and your Jack Russell makes it clear it is either walk him or face the consequences—and with that breed, the consequences can mean anything from an unpleasant deposit in your suitcase or ground glass in your next meal, you’re going to be up for a while. A surprising number of prostitutes out around Fayette Street this time of night….and they were all more interested in Rugby than they were in me.]

When it comes to quitting on the job, there is the Steven Slater method, and then there is this.

Embroiled in various disputes with station management, the news team for ABC’s affiliate in Bangor, Maine (WVFX), Cindy Michaels and Tony Consiglio, decided to resign on the air, at the conclusion of the nightly news broadcast, without informing their soon-to-be ex-bosses. Normally I would frown at such a stunt as unprofessional, and I expected the pair’s performance to have a “take this job and shove it” flair. It did not. Their tone and execution was note perfect, saying good-bye and thank-you to their audience, community and staff, and barely hinting at any discord behind their departure at all, though one would have had to be a low-information voter not to surmise it. Michaels said afterward that the two had “figured if we had tendered our resignations off the air, we would not have been allowed to say goodbye to the community on the air and that was really important for us to do that.” Here was their farewell Wednesday night:

Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Month: Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)

“It is a shame that anytime something goes wrong, they pick on women and minorities..All of the things they have disliked about things that have gone on in the administration, they have never called a male unqualified, not bright, not trustworthy. There is a clear sexism and racism that goes with these comments being made by unfortunately Sen. [John] McCain and others . . . How do you say that a person with Susan Rice’s background is not qualified? I wonder what your qualifications are for your job. Where did you finish in your class? You know, I know one of them finished in the bottom of their class. Susan Rice was a Rhodes scholar. How do you say a person like Susan Rice is not qualified?…I mean, Susan Rice’s comments didn’t send us to Iraq and Afghanistan. Somebody else’s did. But you’re not angry with them.”

—-Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), accusing GOP Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Kelly Ayotte (a woman) of sexism and racism for their harsh criticism of UN Ambassador Susan Rice for her repeated assertion on multiple news shows that the Benghazi attack that killed the American ambassador in Libya was a spontaneous demonstration over a YouTube video after the Obama Administration had been told otherwise.

It must be comforting to be able to rationalize all criticism arising from your own conduct and to attribute it to the biases of your critics. Crippling, but comforting. If one cannot regard criticism as legitimate, then one can never assess one’s own mistakes and weaknesses and work to improve.

Fudge is one of the habitual race-card players in Congress: earlier this year, she accused the bi-partisan House ethics committee of racism because a disproportionate number of the Congressional Black Caucus’s members were under investigation. (This was, of course, because a disproportionate number of  the Congressional Black Caucus’s members, like Fudge, have engaged in dubious practices that indicate a weak grasp of ethics.) This time, she had lots of company, including Rep. James Clyburn (D-NC), who later said that the word “incompetent” was racist code. Brilliant! This means that no black public official can ever be called incompetent! Sure to be added to the code book if this theory sticks: inept, ineffective, corrupt, careless, irresponsible, and unqualified. Fudge, Clyburn and their colleagues propose to make legitimate criticism of black and female officials—those who are Democrats, that is—impossible, one word at a time. Continue reading

The Assumption Church in Barnesville, Minn: Wrong On Belief, Right On Integrity

“Oh, what the hell. Sign him up.”

In Barnesville, Minnesota, the Catholic Church has denied the religious sacrament of confirmation to two students who posted their support for gay marriage on Facebook.


The Catholic Church has been barely holding on to a dwindling membership by adopting the strategy of becoming an organized religion for hypocrites. Being a member of any church should mean the full acceptance of its core teachings. The students involved publicly expressed their disagreement with the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage, and the Church was right to deny them confirmation.

Is the Catholic Church dead wrong to oppose same sex marriage as a sin? Of course. The way to make the Church enter the 21st Century is for double-talkers like John Kerry, Joe Biden and Mario Cuomo to show some backbone and integrity, and reject the Church or their upbringing because it doesn’t accept same sex marriage and abortion, while they obviously do. Instead, these and other faux-Catholics absurdly claim in public that they support diametrically opposed positions simultaneously. All three have piously stated that as Catholics they believe that life begins at conception (ergo, abortion is the sinful taking of innocent human life), but that as elected officials they feel it is inappropriate to “impose their beliefs” on the public. Of course, what elected leaders do is to impose their beliefs on the public, wherever those beliefs come from. What Cuomo, Biden and Kerry, as well as many others, have done, is to aggressively and pro-actively support policies, like abortion-on-demand, that they and their Church say they believe are wrong. Liars or hypocrites, take your pick. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Day: Sesame Street

“Sesame Workshop’s mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential. Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street. This is a sad day for Sesame Street.”

—— The producers of “Sesame Street,” announcing Kevin Clash’s resignation and the end of his close association with Elmo. A second man just accused Clash of molesting him when he was underage, and Clash’s original accuser, Sheldon Stephens, recently recanted his recantation of  his allegations.

“Goodbye, my friend.”

This ending was pre-ordained from the beginning of the scandal, and Clash’s guilt or innocence was and is irrelevant. Sesame Street’s duty is to Elmo and his fans, not Kevin Clash. “Innocent until proven guilty” also has no application. Clash, if nothing else, is guilty of not being innocent enough to be the voice of the most innocent Muppet on Sesame Street.

Jack’s Anti-Political Correctness, Political Bloodsport and Contrived Offense Crusade: Progress Report

As I noted earlier, I am in New Mexico talking to journalists here about the Pat Rogers affair. You can sample one of the fruits of my labors here, a story in the Santa Fe New Mexican. It’s pretty accurate, as press interviews go, though the last quote was botched. I didn’t say that I was a “Greek American conservative Democrat with an anti-war war hero father,” but that my diverse views were the product of “a Greek American conservative Democrat mother and  an anti-war war hero father.” [ UPDATE: This has been corrected.]

If you’ve missed the various posts on this issue, you can find them here, here and here.

One odd note: during my meeting with several reporters from the paper, one of them suggested that making a joke about Custer’s Last Stand was like making a joke about the Holocaust. I let it pass, but the comment seems bizarre to me. Custer, after all, got himself and his men killed, and it was his opposition that was the object of genocide, not the cavalry. Why would ridiculing Custer offend Native Americans?

Five Sarcastic Observations About The Least Surprising Ethics Story Of The Year…

.Hands down.

And in addition, we can all agree, can we not, that:

  1. …this does not indicate media bias?
  2. …the timing was completely coincidental, and had nothing to do with journalists fearing that their candidate might lose?
  3. …there was no ethical obligation on the part of responsible news media to make certain that its coverage was balanced in the final week, given its likely disparate impact in a close race?
  4. …this had no impact on the election?
  5. …Nate Silver knew it was going to be like this all along?


Graphic: Davintosh

Elmo and the One Recant Rule

When we last left the sad saga of Kevin Clash, the Muppets puppeteer whose voice and hands give cute little Elmo his panache, the 23-year-old man who had accused Clash of having underage sex with him had recanted, agreeing with Clash’s defense that their relationship was consummated later, when both were consenting adults. I opined that this would do little to rescue Clash’s career, as the most innocent Muppet on Sesame Street could not survive being operated by a man who was now associated with gay sex, consensual of not. This likely result seemed unfair to Clash, but is nonetheless a responsible decision on the part of Clash’s employers, the Children’s Television Workshop, whose duty is to their mission and core audience, not to one unmasked Muppet.

Clash’s prospects have not improved. It was revealed last week that the recant was bought and paid for by Clash, who handed Sheldon Stephens $125,000 to deny his previous accusation and never to raise it again. Needless to say, a recant induced by monetary compensation is not a reliable one, and leaves as many questions open as the original claim, if not more. In a settlement, the accuser is paid to drop any legal action, but doesn’t agree to retract the original claim. What Clash did is called “buying testimony,” or ” a pay-off.” Continue reading

If This Is Obvious To Everybody, Why Isn’t It Obvious That Petraeus Had To Go?

Look, Sheila must be back at work—that’s her car in her parking space!”

From the Boston Globe:

“The administration of Governor Deval Patrick, embarrassed by revelations that the state highway safety director has a driving record that includes seven accidents, four speeding violations and two failures to stop for a police officer, announced today that the director will be removed from that job.

“Sheila Burgess, the top safety officer since 2007, is on medical leave recovering from an Aug. 24 one-car accident in Milton in which she drove off the road and suffered a head injury. She told police she swerved to avoid an oncoming vehicle in her lane. Burgess will be assigned to a “different role” within the state Office of Public Safety and Security, according to a statement released today by Mary Elizabeth Heffernan, the public safety secretary.

“Given her driving record, it is clear that Ms. Burgess should not have been hired as the director of Highway Safety in 2007,” Heffernan said in the statement. “Burgess is a former fund-raising consultant to high-profile Democratic candidates for public office, including Congressman James McGovern, whose office said on Friday that McGovern asked the newly elected Patrick administration in 2007 to hire Burgess, but without suggesting a specific role for her. She is paid $87,000 annually. Burgess had no experience in public safety, transportation or government administration when hired, according to her resume.”

“Heffernan called Burgess “a solid and dependable employee” during the intervening years, but today, following a Globe story that revealed her driving record, said she no long has confidence in Burgess leading the state’s efforts to reduce accidents by promoting good driving practices…” Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Photographer Flambé

The YouTube video description reads:

“While photographing Murray and Emma’s wedding Ceremony at Netherwood Estate, Jacki Bruniquel’s hair caught alight after getting too close to a candle. One of Murray’s groomsmen attempted to help Jacki put the flames out.

Now watch the video (you’ll want to skip the movie trailer at the beginning).

Does anyone seem to be the least concerned about the woman whose head is on fire? Would you react that way if a friend of yours caught fire?  Hypervocal headlined this WHY ARE YOU LAUGHING? MY HEAD IS ON F*&KING FIRE!”

Your Ethics Quiz question:

Is it fair to conclude from the video that this is a wedding party of heartless jerks ?

I suppose not, but I have to say, I find the lack of any hint of concern on the faces of the bride and groom disturbing. Especially the bride. Then again, maybe it was her new husband’s old flame.
Pointer: Hypervocal

NOW You Tell Us? Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn) Is Not What What He Appeared To Be

Unconfirmed photo of Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais caught out of his man suit.

In 2010, physician Scott DesJarnais ran to represent Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District on a pro-life, anti-abortion platform, and won. He also ran as an honest, trustworthy, honorable individual, as all members of the U.S. House of Representatives ought to be.  He is an MD; integrity, intelligence and professional standards of conduct should be assumed. Little more than week after he was re-elected by Tennessee’s voters this year, however, the court records of his 2001 divorce were released. The Democratic Party in the state had fought to have them released before the election with the support of his ex-wife, but DesJarnais successfully persuaded a judge to wait—after all, why spoil a good surprise? When the transcripts were finally revealed, Tennesseans learned that their re-elected, pro-family Representative:

  • Supported his ex-wife’s two abortions before they were wed
  • Helped arrange abortions for a mistress and a patient he impregnated after they were married.
  • Had multiple sexual affairs with co-workers, subordinates and patients
  • Prescribed recreational pills for at least one of his sex partners
  • At one point, put a pistol barrel in his mouth for two hours and threatened suicide
  • Engaged in multiple actions that are violations of medical ethics, workplace ethics, and laws. Continue reading