A Donald Trump Ethics Lesson

nice-guys“Trump Once Cut Off Medical Care For Sick Infant To Spite the Parents,” shouts the Mediaite headline, thus showing that even somewhat ideologically balanced websites will slant their coverage to make Donald Trump look bad—-strange, because honest reporting  will usually do the trick. What a monster he must be! The problem with the headline is that it intentionally mischaracterizes the episode in question, and “poisons the well,”  framing the story so that a casual reader is likely to interpret it as negatively as possible. This is classic unethical journalism. It also shows how some journalists are incapable of reporting on politicians and leaders, whose world view is so different from theirs.

Fortunately, I should add.

The real story, related over the weekend by the  New York Times, is more complex. The Times told the sad tale of Trump’s older brother Freddy, who died of the effects of alcohol abuse before he was fifty after leaving the family construction business. Trump’s reflections on his brother are uncharacteristically sympathetic and gentle, and it is interesting that The Donald’s reaction to his brother’s fall includes never using tobacco or alcohol, a tribute to his self-discipline.

The incident that prompted the Mediaite hit job occurred after Freddie’s death. Here is how the Times describes it:

In 1999, [Trump’s father, Fred Trump Sr.] died…Freddy’s son, Fred III, spoke at the funeral, and that night, his wife went into labor with their son, who developed seizures that led to cerebral palsy. The Trump family promised that it would take care of the medical bills. Then came the unveiling of Fred Sr.’s will, which Donald had helped draft. It divided the bulk of the inheritance, at least $20 million, among his children and their descendants, “other than my son Fred C. Trump Jr.”

Freddy’s children sued, claiming that an earlier version of the will had entitled them to their father’s share of the estate, but that Donald and his siblings had used “undue influence” over their grandfather, who had dementia, to cut them out. A week later, Mr. Trump retaliated by withdrawing the medical benefits critical to his nephew’s infant child.

Donald Trump confirmed the story to the Times (or “didn’t deny the charge,” in Mediaite’s telling), saying that he withdrew the assistance because he was angry about the lawsuit. Angry that a nephew being helped with medical expenses Trump had no obligation to pay sued him and alleged that he used undue influence to cut the nephew’s family out of a will? What a monster!

The incident shows that Trump is not an especially nice, altruistic soul, but we knew that, and few successful leaders are. It would have been nice if he ignored the fact that the beneficiary of his generosity was biting the hand that fed him—-the contribution to the child’ medical expenses was a financial gift to the father, not the child—-but there is nothing unethical about the decision to withdraw an altruistic boon when the object of it reacts with ingratitude and antipathy. To ignore the slap in the face and continue the assistance would be exemplary ethics, but far from obligatory. It might also be called, by someone like Donald Trump, the act of a chump.

We can presume, since it otherwise would have been a juicy climax to the tale, that the child got the medical care he needed and survived. Fred III was able to find the funds, and since caring for one’s children is a parent’s responsibility and not an uncle’s, neither the baby nor his father  were the victims of a dastardly act. They were objects of an unsentimental act that Fred III risked by suing, and had to know he was risking at the time.

As the nation looks for its next President, hoping that he or she will not be as inept as its current one, this particular incident enhances Trump’s resume. This is a man, for example, who would not continue to push for an Iranian deal that benefits a terror-supporting state after the Iranian government continues to threaten and insult the United States while holding forbidden missile tests. I suspect a President Trump, after Iran violated any terms of any current restrictions, would say, “Oh, screw this: we obviously can’t trust you guys. I gave it a shot, and you played me for a sucker. We’re out.”

That’s about how he would say it, too.

There is nothing unethical about that reaction. It is a strong reaction, a tough reaction, but it isn’t unethical.

Trump did not withhold care to the infant “out of spite.” He correctly regarded the lawsuit as a betrayal and an act of ingratitude, relieving him of any further obligation to the man suing him. Maybe Trump’s offer of care to the child was a preemptive tactic to forestall a lawsuit he suspected might come after the will was read. Maybe Trump did persuade his father to cut Fred Jr.’s family out of the will so he would get more money. There is a lot we don’t know.  His decision to withhold a gift from an ungrateful and treacherous recipient, however, does not make Trump a monster, or prove he is unethical. Indeed, if this was the only thing we knew about Donald Trump, it would enhance his claim that he is qualified to be President.

Unfortunately, we know a lot more, and he is wildly unqualified by experience, temperament, comportment and character. Those who see his conduct in this instance as disqualifying, however, only prove their own lack of understanding about what high-stakes leadership sometimes requires. In international matters particularly, Leo Durocher was correct. Nice guys finish last.

As for Mediaite’s use of the story, it is incompetent and biased. The writer, Alex Griswold, couldn’t keep his emotions out of the way, and what might have been a useful analysis of how Trump uses power and influence became a facile and false “Donald Trump risks a baby’s life to spite his nephew” attack.

Trump has every reason to distrust the news media, but then so do we all.


Sources: Mediaite, New York Times

Graphic: PSU


29 thoughts on “A Donald Trump Ethics Lesson

  1. Trump said last night, in reference to a hit piece done by Esquire magazine that called him the “hater in chief” that he always gives people the opportunity to be fair, and the media never cease to disappoint him.

    • My response would be “you’re a moron.” I don’t read Mediaite comments (or Politico’s, or The Blaze’s, or those on Think Progress, because they always degenerate after about three substantive comments to this. Anyone who draws an analogy between questioning the unilateral power to kill viable fetuses on demand and spending personal funds to care for somebody else’s child is, in truth, too stupid to argue with.

  2. Trump is a narcissist, and a narcissist makes decisions based on them self regardless of how it affects others or ethics involved. Remember a narcissist has an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others and a narcissist also has an exaggerated sense of self-importance which pushes ethics are way down their moral totem pole.

  3. American politics. I don’t know who to root for, and you have about a dozen more choices than I did last time I voted. I liked Rand Paul, and then he proved himself unworthy, I was initially impressed by Fiorina, and then was summarily unimpressed. Cruz, maybe? Christie, maybe?

    • Humble if Kasich could figure out how to debate again he might have had a chance, he is my choice, I don’t have a second choice, Hillary is just so corrupt that I worry about where the country is going that she has so many supporters. Kasich could pull in a lot independents and moderate democrats if the republican party wasn’t so bent on destroying itself. They could have a landslide against Hillary if they could settle on a moderate not named Bush.

      • Steve said, “…if the republican party wasn’t so bent on destroying itself.”

        I’m going to cherry pick that statement out of your comment because it reminded me of something someone said on another site in response to my statement that “Trump is a caricature of what the Liberals think Conservative ideology is all about not what true Conservative ideology is all about”, here is the reply in part…

        The blogger said, “Whether it was dog whistles to disaffected and disenfranchised Blue Dog Democrats or pandering to to the extreme Religious Right, conservatives has been been building its “Big Tent” philosophy by coveting the “wacko” vote for the last 30 years. It was a bargain with the devil and the chickens are coming home to roost.”

        I’m curious what people on this site think of that comment as it related to the upsurge of Trump.

        • The statement really holds no water as it pertains to presidential nominees, the purple and blue states help pick the nominee. The republican presidential nominee has been and will be a moderate. This year it will be the same, the highest performing moderate coming out of the first few states will get it.

          With that said if the polls aren’t a reflection of a toddler throwing a tantrum than we are doomed. If both the democrate and republican parties are willing to elect such ethically corrupt individuals Rome will burn.

        • Not sure if my reply was what you were looking for, in part I would say your comment and the reply are both truthful, yours more than the other but there is something to the reply, just the perspective is off. It is a big tent, more diverse than the democrats, there are wackos in the tent but the majority is still moderate, the fringe is rocking the boat but I think there is still a steady hand on the tiller.

        • I reject the premise of the argument “coveting the ‘wacko’ vote” tells you all you need to know about the commenter. Yes, moderate to deeply conservative voters prefer candidates who would deal with illegal immigration by first stopping it, yes, they want strong horse foreign policy, yes the want government to stay out of people’s personal lives, yes they want policies that build a strong economy and ask people to be accountable for their own needs, but those are not “wacko” positions. They’re pretty standard historical American positions.

          • wyogranny said, “I reject the premise of the argument “coveting the ‘wacko’ vote” tells you all you need to know about the commenter.”

            Yup. I could say a lot about that blogger but I’ll just say this; he’s a political attack dog, a premeditated liar, an unashamed hypocrite, if you have the audacity to challenge him on anything he will track you through various threads to demean you.

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