I frequently find myself correcting commenters who accuse me of ad hominem attack when I diagnose their problem, based on their arguments as jerkism or mental deficiency. (I recently found one legal blogger who actually states that if a commenter uses the term incorrectly, the comment will be rejected). Ad hominem is an argument fallacy that holds that if a messenger is flawed, his or her argument can’t be valid. It’s a cheap debate tactic, and unethical. If I conclude, however, that your argument is so idiotic that it could only be devised by an idiot and thus designate you as one in so many words (because you have a right to know), that’s not ad hominem.
African-American pastor Mark Burns is a rafter-shaking speaker and an unusual and useful advocate for Donald Trump. He has been on cable news segments frequently, and even spoke at the GOP Convention. Being black, he is obviously roundly detested by those who regard Trump as a bigot, indeed by those who just dislike Trump generally. This almost certainly includes journalists on CNN, a Hillary stronghold.
A member of the black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi alerted CNN that Burns had claimed to have been a member, but there was no record to support it. This set CNN on a quest to check all of Burns’ credentials and biography items, and it found that he had other dubious claims. Confronted on the air by (also African-American) CNN reporter Victor Blackwell with these discrepancies, Burns stuttered, humina-huminaed, protested, lied (his web site bio had been “manipulated” in some way, he said—the Weiner Excuse: “I’ve been hacked!”), and finally stormed out of the interview, which is to say, he ran.
Mark Burns is a Trump ally and supporter of note because he is a black pastor. He is still a black pastor. He makes a case for why blacks should support Doonald Trump. That case does not in any way rely on his military record or where he went to school, or, for that matter, how well he responds to having his honesty and integrity challenged on TV.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is...
“Was CNN’s attack on Pastor Burns fair and responsible, or..
Was it an unethical ad hominem attack designed to discredit a Donald Trump ally?”
I think I’ll hold my fire on this until you weigh in, but my starting position in my analysis is this:
P.S.: Burns issued an explanation and an apology for his deception on Facebook:
As a young man starting my church in Greenville, South Carolina, I overstated several details of my biography because I was worried I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a new pastor. This was wrong, I wasn’t truthful then and I have to take full responsibility for my actions. Since that time I should have taken steps to correct any misrepresentations of my background. We all make mistakes, and I hope that the measure of my character and the quality of my works speak for what kind of person I am.
I do also want to set the record straight about why this attack is happening – because I am a black man supporting Donald Trump for President. For too long, African-American votes have been taken for granted by Democratic politicians, and enough is enough. It’s a shame that the political insiders and the media choose to attack me because I’m not going to stay silent about Hillary Clinton’s pandering to our community. Instead, I’m going to tell people that there is another option – an option that represents a positive vision that will unify our country. That’s why I have and will continue to tirelessly support Mr. Trump.
I guess we know how HE would answer the quiz!