Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck Catch-Up: The Shots, the Hashtag, the Huckster and the Snub

steam train wreck

The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck is slowing down now, though passengers keep getting on board and it will surely pick up steam again.

Here are some recent ethics outrages, as Ethics Alarms tries to keep up:

1. The Shots:

CNN buys another seat on the train wreck

What’s wrong with this sentence? Don Lemon, CNN host, played a recording that was alleged to be of Officer Wilson shooting Michael Brown and preceded it by saying the tape had not been authenticated.

A burst of six shots can be heard, followed by a pause, and then several more shots, at least four. “He was in his apartment, he was talking to a friend on a video chat, he heard loud noises and at the moment — at the time he didn’t realize the import of what he was hearing until afterwards,” the lawyer for the unidentified man who made the recording told Lemon. “It just happened to capture 12 seconds of what transpired outside of his building.”

Almost immediately, speculation was rife that this called into question Wilson’s account, though we don’t know yet what that account is. IF the tape is accurate, this doesn’t look good for Wilson, opined one web reporter. Wait a minute! Why is CNN releasing anything that is not verified as authentic? Why not an unverified photo that purports to show a shadowy second shooter? Why not an unverified tape of Brown and a friend plotting to attack a police officer for fun? This isn’t evidence, and it isn’t news. It’s just chum in the water for a news media feeding frenzy, or more simply, crummy, irresponsible unethical journalism.

And what do you know? It’s beginning to look as if the tape isn’t legitimate after all. On CNN’s morning show New Day,  Former LAPD officer David Klinger and CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes gave their expert analysis on the tape’s authenticity. Klinger suggested that “someone is trying to punk CNN,” and Fuentes called the tape “a hoax.” Ah, but wasn’t it great that CNN debunked its own lousy, premature story?


Joe Concha, at Mediaite, nails it:

Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple correctly describes the New Day interview with Fuentes and Klinger as CNN engaging in “self-auditing.” But to do so almost 36 hours later is–and I can’t get away from this word–odd. Here’s two more to describe the way the network originally handled it when the audio was first handed to them: utterly backwards. If applying the measure twice, cut once rule, CNN would have called experts like Klinger and Fuentes on Monday night upon obtaining the tape to have them verify if it was a hoax or not before going to air with it. This process would have taken no more than ten minutes given that Fuentes says he knew it was fake the minute he heard it for the first time. Remember, Fuentes is on CNN’s payroll…it’s not like it would have been very hard to find him.

But then CNN wouldn’t have had 36 hours of buzz and speculation!

2. The Huckster:

MSNBC  and Al Sharpton trash Journalism Ethics 101

The utter travesty of race-huckster Al Sharpton rabble-rousing during Michael Brown’s funeral and then hosting his own “news” show the same night represented some kind of apotheosis for MSNBC’s wilful shunning of broadcast journalism ethics principles. Journalists don’t become part of the stories they cover. They must not have an interest in the outcomes of those stories. They should not be proven, unrepentant liars who live by ginning up racial hatred and serving as a race controversy ambulance chasers…wait, that’s just the “No Al Sharpton Rule.”

It is a pity that Howard Kurtz gradually undermined his credibility as a media ethics watchdog at the Washington Post, CNN, and The Daily Beast. It is a pity that there are people who won’t pay attention to anyone employed by Fox News, even if it was Lowell Thomas and Ed Murrow. But Kurtz’s sputtering rage over the Sharpton debacle is spot on, and he still knows unethical journalism when he sees it. Read his brief against the multiple conflicts of Al Sharpton and his employer’s complicity here.

3. The Hashtag

A “trusted” Democratic spokesperson goes race-baiting

Donna Brazile poses as an analyst on ABC’s Sunday morning show. This is just wrong: she is a paid Democratic operative, and her jobat ABC, her only job, is to spin and protect her clients. She is glib, she’s Southern, she ran a Presidential campaign (Al Gore’s, and badly), she’s black and she’s a she, but she cannot be trusted to be honest and fair, and such people do not belong on TV news shows.

Yesterday, Brazile proved all of this true. She took to Twitter to encourage her followers to to vote in the November midterm elections. “We have to be passionate about the upcoming election,” Brazile tweeted. “We have to feel it matters, that our vote matters. We have to own it.” She concluded the tweet with the #Ferguson hashtag. Other similar tweets, with the same hashtag, followed, until, mysteriously, it was replaced in the last group by #Vote2014. Why the change? Either somebody suggested to the race-baiting hack that this was just a little too obvious a ploy to exploit racial divisions as well as encourage them for  political gain, even though this has been Democratic Party SOP since 2008. For God sakes, Donna, at least pretend to be fair and decent!

The Ferguson tragedy has nothing to do with party affiliation, or shouldn’t have. One young man is dead, another’s life will never be the same; a community is shattered. One party, however, Brazile’s—remember that she is as much as an establishment Democratic insider as exists on the planet–is determined to pre-judge the guilt of the police officer, a public servant, condemn his conduct as racism, because of his color, and to make sure the party benefits at the polls as a result, by spreading fear and distrust among African-Americans. That is the only possible meaning of #Ferguson used in this context by Donna Brazile.

It is blatant hate-mongering, and I will no longer watch ABC on Sunday mornings as long as this hyper-partisan racist appears there.

4. The Snub

Two victims, one White House priority

The funeral of Michael Brown, who still, it must be remembered, may turn out to be a law-breaking youth who attacked a police officer trying to do his job and was justly shot in self-defense, and the memorial service for James Foley, a courageous American journalist beheaded by the enemies of the United States in retaliation for Barack Obama’s air attacks, took place on the same day. At Brown’s funeral, where a White House presence could only symbolize that the President was announcing his support for the black victim against the white police officer whose actions still must be judged, in the absence of a finding of law and fact, justified, three administration representatives appeared, and sat through Al Sharpton’s speech presuming racism, murder, brutality and injustice where none had been proved.

At Foley’s memorian, where an Administration presence would only be showing support for an undeniable victim against his terrorist killers, there were no White House representatives. This was duly ignored by all non right-biased news outlets, because they are dedicated to keeping as much embarrassing news about the President from the public as possible. All the conservative media noticed it, because they want to embarrass the President.

In this case, he deserved to be embarrassed, and the public had a right to know that promoting racial division is apparently higher on Obama’s list of priorities than defying terrorists. There was no requirement that Obama have anyone at either event, but choosing to have a presence at the Brown funeral while the Foley service was going on the same day was either intentionally provocative, or epically stupid.

[NOTE: The original post erroneously referred to Foley’s service as a funeral. Thanks to reader Jan Chapman for the correction.]


Sources: Mediaite 1,2; Washington Post, CNN, Fox News



26 thoughts on “Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck Catch-Up: The Shots, the Hashtag, the Huckster and the Snub

  1. choosing to have a presence at the Brown funeral while the Foley funeral was going on the same day was either intentionally provocative, or epically stupid.
    It was both. Never underestimate the ability of the Obama administration to combine the two.

  2. It was a memorial for James Foley, not a funeral, which will be held in October. Since there are members of the family who feel that the administration could have done more to obtain his release, it could be the most ethical thing to do was stay away.

    • I think that’s a distinction without a difference at this point, and you are offering a rationalization. In leadership, it’s the message that matters. This message stinks. The concern has nothing to do with the Foleys, nor the Browns…the White House knows neither. The issue is what the two events, taken as a whole, appear to say. Personally, I think they say that Obama has the worst advisors in the history of the Presidency, but that’s old news.

        • Quite frankly, we really don’t know. It is entirely possible, probably likely considering what some of them have said, that the administration was told to stay away from the Foley proceedings. Without a little more information, it is too early to be outraged.

          • I think the Foley memorial is only an issue because the Brown funeral is being given the attention of the administration.

            Appropriate analysis would conclude (and should have concluded quite summarily) that the Administration has no business attending the Brown Funeral. However, it chose to attend the funeral and therefore has brought ALL OTHER low level and higher funerals into the question: What message does this president send?

          • If I felt the administration was partially responsible for the death of a loved one, I wouldn’t want them anywhere near the memorial. The Browns obviously welcomed representatives of the administration. The ethics of the situation call for respecting the wishes of the family.

            I agree with a lot of your posts on the Ferguson situation, Jack. But it became a national issue whether you think that is appropriate or not. Many people do think that Ferguson is symptomatic of a larger problem. In my opinion, sending a representative acknowledges that point and does not necessarily take sides.

            • Then they don’t go to the Brown funeral, which, in fact, they should not have anyway, since it was a tacit accusation of Wilson in the absence of evidence. Go to neither, go just to Foley’s, or go to both. The only unacceptable, divisive and irresponsible approach was what was chosen. Brilliant.

              • I mean…. Why this one? Why now? If the argument is that the Administration showing up ISN’T taking sides, and because it’s a national issue (and it is, international in fact) it’s appropriate for the Administration to show up….. Why not Trayvon’s funeral? I mean, if Obama had a son, he would have looked like Trayvon, if all of the above was true, why one and not the other? The fact of the matter is the white house shouldn’t have a seat at that table, even if you think it’s appropriate.

                Because the White House cannot possibly attend every victim of terrorism, murder victim, accidental shooting victim, celebrity, fallen soldier, and beloved family pet’s funeral, they shouldn’t attend any.

                • Well, you know the answer, right? This one, because the mid-terms are coming, so its time to remind the 98% of the public that will insist Obama is wonderful no matter what that they better get to the polls because whites (you know, Republican racists) are hunting their kids with those guns they refuse to ban.

                  Cynical, disgusting, and destructive.

  3. The worst thing about all this is that every one of these outrages was not only predictable from past performance, but completely expected in the course of this event. It’s what these people do. It’s how they “forward” their agenda. And, as long as they can get away with it, they’ll keep right on. To them, ethics is a relative term that they can redefine at will.

  4. And what do you know? It’s beginning to look as if the tape isn’t legitimate after all. On CNN’s morning show New Day, Former LAPD officer David Klinger and CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes gave their expert analysis on the tape’s authenticity. Klinger suggested that “someone is trying to punk CNN,” and Fuentes called the tape “a hoax.” Ah, but wasn’t it great that CNN debunked its own lousy, premature story?

    Well now it looks as if the tape is in fact authentic, as verified by “Glide” which is the company that owns the app that recorded the shots. The CNN “experts really didn’t base their commentary on anything other than speculation, as to what “cold have happened”. They’re no better than the rest of us who have engaged in the same thing, without the platform. That does in fact make them accountable, and ethically responsible for their behavior. SO while it still might be a breach of journalistic ethics to have run the tape prior to verification, from a business standpoint how do you rate the decision? Could it have simply been them trying to influence the story? Or perhaps, did they believe the tape to be true and took a chance? Either way, I really wish they’d move the investigation along. Americans have a short attention span, but a long memory….

    • You do concede that it doesn’t matter whether the tape is authentic or not to the ethics issue discussed: CNN’s irresponsible decision to put it on TV before it was tested and determined to be legit…right?

      • The attached article is more germane to a previous thread, but the issue of “white privilege” is in my opinion, so important, and difficult to speak to, that I thought I’d share. Your thoughts are eagerly anticipated….

        • I think people get upset with white privilege because it’s racist. Racism is the categorization of races as superior or inferior in relation to others, and as such, assuming that a white person is more privileged than a person of another race is inherently racist.

          I also think it especially galls people in locations where white people are a minority, and that privilege is either mitigated or turned on it’s head completely, or in situations where merely being white didn’t seem to lend a privilege, say a white homeless person, or in cases where it’s very apparent that someone succeeded due to a privilege inherent in there race and they aren’t white…. Like land settlements with Canadian Natives that end up powers of magnitude larger than the inflation adjusted value of the land being settled.

          All that said…. It might be healthy for individuals to think about how blessed they are, not as white, or a man, or fit, or as a citizen of a western democracy, but just as a person. To take a moment to reflect on times where someone helped you and they didn’t need to, and maybe go through life a little less miserable.

          I think tying race to the conversation makes it more miserable.

          • Humble Talent, you’ve missed a key component in your definition of racism. One must be in a position of power and/or control to be able to be racist. Anything else is simply prejudice, and to be human is to have prejudices. Racism is something far more sinister, and that is why many whites are so quick to want to eliminate it from the equation. It feels wrong and uncomfortable because it is. But in this lack of comfort (for even a short time with little consequence) understanding can emerge on both sides. If whites adamantly state that they’re not racists and at the same time fail to even acknowledge that their race offers them an inherent system wide advantage, you’re going to have less credibility from others (white and black) who know better. I sincerely wish that the luxury you speak of-to simply be blessed to be a citizen of a western democracy, was enough, along with my own talent, luck and brains to ensure my safety and success. But it isn’t. And as a result, I must be aware of outside issues and the role race plays in how I’m perceived, what I earn, and how the racist views of others might impact the lives of me and my family. I fear that if other well meaning, educated white people who are thoughtful and learned can’t convince you that a thing such as ‘white privilege”exists, we don’t have much of a starting point for a meaningful discussion. That article is as good as it gets…..

            • Bull Shit

              “One must be in a position of power” nothing. That’s not the dictionary definition, that’s not common usage, that’s nothing but progressive jargon to underplay their racism against groups they don’t feel deserve protection from anti discrimination laws.

              “One must be in power” Is an ethically bankrupt position, it fails the reciprocity and universality tests, completely and utterly. But more, even if you want to re-label racism as merely ‘prejudiced’ (which your statement seems to give a pass), the statement is ‘prejudiced’ on it’s face. Who decides who is powerful? Is it an individual thing, or a racial thing? In the context we’re speaking, it doesn’t make sense to be individual, and if you’re saying that people of various ethnicities cannot have racist tendencies against white people because white people are de facto at the top of the power dynamic…. Well you’re a racist. And an idiot.

              It’s similar to the sex-negative feminist theory, where because of the patriarchy, women are always in an inferior position in sexual dynamics, and therefore any heterosexual sex is de facto rape. It’s absolutely insane. But more than that, “rape” in that instance is watered down to include all sex, and so it looses any and all meaning and becomes a useless label.

              I say it’s similar, because if you paint all white people as having privilege over all (let’s use) black people (or others), regardless of other factors, you water down privilege to be meaningless. It’s like…. If a wealthy black person refused to give a dollar to a white beggar because the white beggar had ‘white privilege’. How seriously do you expect people to take that?

              And if in that stance, the black man withheld his charity not because he didn’t want to give charity, but because the person asking for money was white, than that is racist even by your bat-shit insane definition of racism, because you can’t possibly argue that a homeless white man has more power or control in that situation than a wealthy black man.

              In closing, I understand that privilege exists, but I refuse to use it as a broad tool to apply equally to all members of a race or to any other group, because it’s a divisive, unethical, ‘prejudiced’ position to take.

              • Let’s try another approach from n article that addresses what I believe are the points that cause you the most discomfort and see where we’re at.
                http://bit.ly/1uU5QnF Please understand- I’m simply not smart enough to come up with this stuff on my own. I try to site sources that should be viewed as credible to all. But this is a solid discussion….

  5. Ha! It’s gonna be a great day. And I do like knee defenders. But only on catchers. On airplanes, they’re looking to start a fight, and that’s what they’re getting. If airlines would sell a few less seats per plane, the “kneed” for such foolishness would go away….

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