Unethical Quote of the Month: Alexandra Pelosi

“I don’t ask for permission. I think anytime you have to ask for permission your project is doomed.”

—-Alexandra Pelosi, political documentary film-maker (and daughter of you-know-who), speaking about her embrace of the unethical philosophy, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission,” or in her version, “It’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” Pelosi employed a bait-and switch ruse to made former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreavey the subject of her latest documentary.

Mother taught her well...

Mother taught her well…

If Pelosi is correct, then she is in an inherently unethical profession, and shameless about it. If Pelosi is correct, then all documentary film-makers are indistinguishable from other manipulative deceivers like Sasha Baron Cohen, James O’Keefe, Michael Moore, and her. She is not correct, however. There are many celebrated, honest, straightforward documentary makers who get proper permission from subjects before they put them on camera, respecting their autonomy and privacy and engaging with them fairly. The fact that Pelosi sees no need for this tells us all we need to know about her documentaries.  She believes that the ends justify the means, so she can’t be trusted. She will employ chicanery, deception, and lies in order to make a commercially viable film, which will be worth approximately as much, from a documentation standpoint, as her word: nothing.

The context of Pelosi’s smug endorsement of deception as her SOP was the description of how she filmed McGreavey in his new life since resigning as governor and announcing that he was gay. Pelosi persuaded McGreevey to let her follow him around, but not to make a documentary, which McGreevey’s partner, Mark O’Donnell, opposed. Pelosi told Politico, “I don’t think he thought I was making a movie. I think he thought I was just hanging around.” Then, after the documentary was completed, Pelosi says she told her unwitting and deceived star,  “You have a choice. You can support the bigger picture of what the movie is trying to say, which is about the theme of redemption and second acts, or you can not sign a release and this film will go to waste.” McGreevey should have said, of course, “Go to hell. You lied to me. You won’t have my release, and if you show it to anyone, I’ll sue you right back to living in your mother’s house.” Pelosi, however, as master con artist must, chose her victim well. Though “he was not happy,” McGreevey signed the release. She is despicable. Not only does Pelosi happily proclaim that misleading people is the foundation of her art, she clearly sees nothing wrong with it. Anyone who believes, or cares, what a film-maker like this portrays in her work is a fool. She has announced that she believes deception is essential to her work, and that is all we need to know about her methods, her integrity, and her character. Documentaries are about revealing the truth; Pelosi is in the wrong field. Obviously, she belongs in politics, like her mother.


Facts and Graphic: Politico


13 thoughts on “Unethical Quote of the Month: Alexandra Pelosi

  1. There are times when deception is necessary and excusable for journalism. Pretty much any documentary expose of fraud, for instance, will involve the reporter (or an accomplice) pretending to be a mark.

    Or, in other words, journalists occasionally need to do undercover work.

    The thing is… a good journalist will recognize the questionable nature of this and do everything they can to keep it to an absolute minimum.

    This… did not follow that pattern.

    • The rules of journalistic ethics say that deception is a last resort, and only in extraordinary circumstances. The story of McGreavy’s post-closeted life is not a matter of public safety or something the public has a need or right to know.

      • “The thing is… a good journalist will recognize the questionable nature of this and do everything they can to keep it to an absolute minimum.

        “This… did not follow that pattern.”


  2. Hopefully, young Ms Pelosi’s reputation for being untrustworthy will spread like wildfire and this “documentary” will sit alone on the shelf where she displays her Body of Work.

  3. Unfortunately, Pelosi’s non-values are all too often demonstrated across the breadth of the media arena. She’s only being a little more honest than most about her otherwise contemptible ways and means. That puts her a tiny note above her mother, who lacks even that.

  4. Would a documentary of this former governor and his new life be considered educational? Most documentary’s lean to the educational value contained in the story. A person calling them-self a “journalist” and then having to steep so low as to misinform the subject could easily be considered one with a narcissistic personality. This dangerous approach to dramatize events even in the wrong country could bring a swift end with a rusty dull sword. It certainly appears that the Pelosi family has genes that are missing compassion but rather full of the narcissistic personality that appears to be contagious with those who demand power over others. And then they hide behind a smile.

  5. I agree with your analysis of the moral perils of “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission,” but reading the story, I don’t think she means it in the worst sense.

    The story isn’t written to address these issues, but it sounds like she was following him around with a video camera and asking him questions on camera. He had to know she was rolling, so she clearly had his implicit permission to get the video, meaning there’s no invasion of privacy issue. All she needed to do was get permission to publish the video as a documentary, which she did.

    This doesn’t seem much different from a journalist who has a series of candid off-the-record conversations with someone and then says, “How about you let me put this on the record?”

    • Boy, that’s a very benign reading of a story that she specifically explains in different terms. She says he didn’t think she was filming a documentary, and that “you have two choices” speech sounds like a bait and switch to me. Was he naive? Foolish? It doesn’t matter. Did he give permission to be photographed for future display in a commercial feature? Not until it was a fait accompli.

      • Yeah, maybe I’m going a little soft because instead of using her family connections to follow her mother into politics and grasp at power, she seems to have followed her own dream into documentary filmmaking (although I’m sure the family connections helped). I kind of admire that. Some of the other stories I read, and their Stephanopoulos interview, make the process sound friendlier than the Politico piece does.

  6. Clearly, the Pelosi family has a missing gene — the one that dictates honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior. How dare she? And frankly, a “documentary” deceitfully created — and who knows how it’s edited — can do more damage to our culture than her mother’s legislative and political behavior.

    Sure, Pelosi the younger cannot introduce or vote on legislation, cannot “lead” politically in any sense of the word, but, as a country of morons, we are led more by the media than by politicians/”leaders.” People believe Michael Moore because IT’S ON FILM SO IT MUST BE TRUE. We are uneducated, uncaring, lazy. This reminds me of the (I think) GEICO ad where the young woman says that “you can’t put anything on the Internet that isn’t true,” then walks off with the big lug who says, “Uh, bon jour.!)

    People believe what they see. The old adage of “a picture doesn’t lie” is long dead, as we know. Technology has taken care of that. But the deception involved in Ms. Pelosi’s behavior is despicable beyond belief.
    Actually, it’s less about how she did it than how she excused herself for it. Let’s all commit our sins cheerfully, if we can simply ask for redemption later and actually get it! And it happens over and over again. When will Americans ever demand honesty, legality, ethical behavior, and NOT simply say “okay” when the dishonest, illegal, unethical behavior is apologized for. She resorted to deceit to make her “documentary” and then resorted to threats/challenges to her victim. (And McGreavey WAS a victim; I’m only sorry that he was such a wimp…)

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