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?
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.]