CNN’s Smoking Gun Ebola Gag

Ebola joke

The photo above was deemed so cute and hilarious that CNN’s “New Day” senior producer John Griffin tweeted it to the world. CNN brass, at least those among them who are not demented nor insane, immediately ordered it taken down, but of course it was too late.

We now we know. We’ve known for a long time, those of us who were paying attention at least, but now we know for certain. The photo is smoking gun evidence of a tragic fact with frightening implications for all of us. Broadcast journalism, the occupation that Edward R. Murrow believed would transform and enrich America by creating a better educated, more knowledgeable, more civically literate and involved public, can no longer claim to be a profession, a pursuit dedicated to the public good. It is nothing more than entertainment, and not very professional or sophisticated entertainment at that.

I have no problem with Conan O’Brien, or Jimmy Kimmel, or Bill Maher or even Rush Limbaugh making an Ebola joke, as long as it makes someone laugh. Comedy is good; laughing about horrible things can be therapeutic. The political correctness dummies who are complaining about severed heads in Halloween displays (because they may evoke thoughts of the ISIS beheadings) can’t distinguish fantasy from reality. And, as is typical in such protests, these bullies just enjoy bending others to their will, spoiling someone else’s fun by insisting on an accommodation to their extreme sensitivities, even though they are probably the last people who would patronize a Halloween display. [See: Washington Redskins].  If the management of places like Busch Gardens had any principles or gumption, they would promise to double the number of heads for each idiotic anti-head gripe.

Halloween has always been about embracing horror for fun, and thus defanging it. There is no way to fairly cherry-pick the horrors traditionally satirized by Halloween without ending the tradition. Ebola is certainly fair game for pop culture exploitation, and there were already entertainment programs like “Z Nation,” “The Walking Dead” and “The Strain” working the dramatic and comic potential of deadly contagions.

That fun, however, is not for non-entertainment professionals, not in public. The day the photo was tweeted, CNN’s reporters were solemnly revealing to their audience the frightening, dangerous, ominous breaches in protocol, official ineptitude and negligence that has marked the U.S. handling of this public health emergency. People are dying, the public is worried, and CNN is doing its part to seed the panic. If we are to trust its gathering, analysis and reporting of the news, we must trust that the broadcast media takes its role very, very seriously, and takes the stories it reports to us seriously as well. To hold that trust, they are bound to do nothing for public consumption that suggests that their seriousness and concern for our lives and welfare is an act, or insincere. Can they indulge in rueful black humor among colleagues? Sure they can. Can they communicate to the world that the Ebola crisis is just one big lark to them, and still hold our trust, or continue to deserve it?


Can you imagine the reaction if this photograph were taken with the participants being…

The U.S. Supreme Court?

The Cabinet?

The top officials at the U.N.?

CDC executives?

NIH administrators?

You probably can’t, because nothing like that has ever happened before. The reason it hasn’t is that these are all professionals, they all know it, and know that such conduct would disgrace them and forfeit public trust.

So why did New Day anchors Chris Cuomo, Michaela Pereira and Alisyn Camerota allow themselves to be photographed feigning fear as two men wearing hazmat gear loom over them?  Why did John Griffin think it was appropriate to share the photo with the world?

The reason is that they are not professionals, and broadcast journalism is no longer a profession.

Case closed.

[ Note: the Ebola crisis is now an official Ethics Alarms Ethics Train Wreck.]


Facts: The Blaze,

24 thoughts on “CNN’s Smoking Gun Ebola Gag

  1. Note: the Ebola crisis is now an official Ethics Alarms Ethics Train Wreck.
    I figured it was going to be when I heard the cruise ship tidbit.

  2. Not to diminish your point which is well taken but Alisyn Camerota simply appears to be smiling for a photo and not feigning fear.

    • Which is also bad. Nothing like smiling brightly in the face of Ebola. Alisyn is a sub…I probably should cut her a little slack. Still, a professional should say, “Wait—I can’t be part of this. I’m gone.”

      And then go.

      • I’m not making excuses for the sad state of journalism, but I wonder if maybe this isn’t as unprofessional as it looks.

        What if the newscasters in that photo never intended it to be seen by anyone else? It could very well have been behind-the-scenes humor that they never thought their producer would be dumb enough to post on Twitter.

        Seems to me that all this picture really shows is that whoever posted it has spectacularly poor judgment.

        • The producer did, so it reflects directly on the show and its employees. It doesn’t matter..that was a staged shot. Would you be similarly understanding if it was the President and his advisors mocking Ebola? What’s the difference?

  3. And the hazmat moron on the left is flipping the bird. Maybe he didn’t think the picture was frivolous and juvenile enough?

  4. Ethical Alarmist,
    I know this is nit-picky in the extreme, but “professional” and “profession” are two very different words. Just because they aren’t acting “professionally” does not mean they’re not longer work in a “profession” Much to your chagrin, they are all still fully employed with nameplates which read some variation of “journalist,” making them, by definition, “professionals.”

    • Wrong. My field is professional ethics, and you do not know what you are talking about. “Profession” and “professional” are terms of art. The fact that they are commonly misused to the extent that “profession” is now meaningless to most of the public—like you—as distinct from “occupation” is not my problem.

      Try to keep up.

      • I was taught at school that there were only three true professions; medicine, law and ministry. Everything else is a trade, including journalism so no one could claim to be a ‘professional journalist’ or electrician or whatever. Perhaps my teacher was just being pedantic but she felt quite strongly about the ‘misuse’ of that word.

        • I hope you were in school a while back. My grandmother, born in 1900 felt that anybody who wore a tie was a professional. Unfortunately, that, at the time, included used car salesmen. I would say that any field that includes an enforceable code of ethics should be considered a profession. I do not include journalism in that because their code, if they have one, is not enforceable. I may be wrong, and I am certainly amenable to education if I am.

            • I say this out of jealousy…congratulations! I graduated in 1963. However, do not let anybody convince you that old age confers great amounts of wisdom. It doesn’t. We just look more regal while pontificating stupidly.

              • Ha. I have realised that. My husband’s grandmother just might be the most immature, irresponsible person I’ve ever met. She is always letting people rip her off, too. A Verizon employee took major advantage and sold her every Apple product they had with the most expensive plans and of course she couldn’t even use the devices. We finally got this resolved for her but had to pay a pretty hefty (IMO) cancellation fee. I was picking up debris out of her carpet last I was there and she said ‘I do have a vacuum in the garage, y’know. You can use that’, I asked her, half joking, ‘is it a Kirby by any chance?’ and she said ‘yes! How did you know?’. Oh, just a hunch…

        • No, your teacher was correct. Other trades, like accounting and journalism, and education, have appropriated the term with some justification as a matter of self-esteem, especially as the other, traditional professions started acting more like businesses.

          • Noted (and thanks to Kerry Ricardo): Her teacher did not include herself and her colleagues’ line of work a profession. Taking that as truth, maybe that explains a few things a little bit more…

  5. Just idle curiosity, Jack. I am a retired psychologist (not psychiatrist. You’d be surprised how many people think they are the same thing). We also have a code of ethics, governing bodies in most, if not all, states and the ability to be drummed out of the field if we transgress. I would be interested in hearing your assessment of the field of psychology as a profession.

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