Yesterday, in an Ethics Alarms post pointing out that nobody should vote a person who physically attacks reporters, or indeed, who attacks anybody, into Congress, I wrote,
What kind of person would vote for Gianforte after last night’s display? The kind of person who argues that character doesn’t matter in elected officials, only their positions.
And idiots, of course.
Candidate/Thug Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate, won the election nonetheless with over 50% of the votes. Rob Quist, the Democrat, received only 44%. Does this mean that over 50% of Montana voters are idiots? No, that wouldn’t be a fair conclusion. An estimated 60% of voters had turned in their ballots already, so the Gianforte voters in that batch weren’t necessarily idiots. (As I implied in the post yesterday, the advocates for voting before election day, thus allowing late-arriving information about the candidates—as in, “Hey! This guy is an unstable, volatile jerk with the judgment of a bar room goon!” to have minimal effect on election results, have embraced an irresponsible, idiotic even, policy.)
Gianforte’s victory illuminate other ethics issues, hwoever:
1. Addressing supporters in his victory speech, Gianforte apologized to the reporter he body-slammed, the journalists who witnessed the attack, and Montanans, saying “When you make a mistake you have to own up to it. That’s the Montana way.”
Ugh, yecchh, gag, petui!
If that’s the Montana way, why did Gianforte sit back and allow his campaign to blame the episode on the reporter? Remember, the statement from Gianforte’s staff, which is to say Gianforte, said that the reporter,
“entered the [campaign] office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions….After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”
That isn’t owning up. That’s covering up, spinning and lying. Does the new Congressman’s apology mean that he acknowledges that his campaign was lying? When will he own up to that? An apology now is cheap, cynical and meaningless, for Gianforte won, and Montana is stuck with him for two years.
2. A Montana TV station refused to inform its viewers that Gianforte had assaulted and battered a reporter. NBC affiliate KECI, recently purchased by the conservative media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting, adamantly kept the report of the attack and the audio of the incident, arguing that “The person that tweeted [Jacobs] and was allegedly body slammed is a reporter for a politically biased publication.” That “biased publication” was the Guardian, and the tweeter was Ben Jacobs, the victim. His account was confirmed by reporters from Fox News…you know, that liberal network that is always trying to make Republicans look bad. The anchor of the evening newscast, Laurel Staples, read a statement that said, in part, “NBC Montana takes pride in reporting only verifiable facts from an independent, reliable sources.”
NBC News, including the Today show and affiliates across the country, played the audio of the altercation between Jacobs and Gianforte, who was charged with misdemeanor assault, indicating that reports of the episode were reliable.
3. This may partially explain why assaulting a reporter isn’t viewed by much of the public as a great offense, or even unreasonable. What KECI did, breaching its duty to report te news objectively and fairly, is done by the mainstream media routinely, except to usually in the service of Democrats.On Wednesday, investigative news site Circa News revealed evidence of illegal spying during the Obama years. Only Fox News and a handful of conservative websites reported the story. ABC, CBS, and NBC omitted the story from their evening broadcasts, and the Washington Post, the New York Times, and most mainstream media outlet have kept their readers in the dark as well, concentrating instead on rumors, anonymous “reports” and innuendo that they can use to imply that the President has committed impeachable offenses, somehow.
Circa reported that “the National Security Agency under former President Barack Obama routinely violated American privacy protections while scouring through overseas intercepts and failed to disclose the extent of the problems until the final days before Donald Trump was elected president last fall.” More than one in 20 internet searches conducted by the National Security Agency, involving Americans, during the Obama administration violated constitutional privacy protections, and the practice went on for years. the Obama administration was reprimanded by the FISA court as a result. As Fox Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen put it:
“On the day President Obama visited Los Angeles last October to yuk it up with Jimmy Kimmel, lawyers for the National Security Agency were quietly informing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that NSA had systematically violated the rights of countless Americans….Declassified documents, first obtained by the news site Circa, show the FISA court sharply rebuked the administration.With greater frequency than previously disclosed to the Court, NSA analysts had used U.S. person identifiers to query the results of internet ‘upstream’ collection, even though NSA’s Section 702 minimization procedures prohibited such queries.The documents show it was back in 2011 that the FISA court first determined NSA’s procedures to be, quote, “statutorily and constitutionally deficient with respect to their protection of U.S. person information.” Five years later, two weeks before Election Day, the judges learned that NSA had never adequately enacted the changes it had promised to make. The NSA inspector general and its office of compliance for operations “have been conducting other reviews covering different time periods,” the judges noted, “with preliminary results suggesting that the problem is widespread during all periods of review.”
This is no small matter. In January, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Attorney General Loretta Lynch approved of new rules for the NSA that would further loosen standards regarding what raw intelligence data it was allowed to share with the rest of the intelligence and law-enforcement community. At the time, privacy advocates demanded the administration rein in the powers of the presidency if only to box in Trump. Not only did the Obama administration do precisely the opposite, “former Obama administration officials” bragged to reporters about the obvious trail of intelligence gleaned from foreign intercepts they left behind for anyone interested in investigating the Trump campaign’s links to Russia.
Never mind. The mainstream media can’t make Trump look bad if it suddenly starts exposing the abuses of the Obama administration, and besides, it was too busy to let the public know about “a serious Fourth Amendment breach” by the Obama Administration. After all, breaking news from Europe was that President Trump rudely pushed through to the front of the NATO leaders group, unsettling the President of Montenegro.
Gradually the public is catching on to this betrayal by the press. The news media isn’t doing journalism. The news media wants to assist “the resistance,” that is Democrats, progressives, and by her own admission, Hillary Clinton, in overturning the election by any means necessary. Astoundingly, journalists don’t see what they are doing to their credibility, democracy, and the institution of journalism. It is indeed acting as an “enemy of the people,” as the President diplomatically tweeted.
People tend not to like their enemies, nor feel especially sympathetic when they are abused. I object to the abuse, but then I have to; I’m an ethicist, after all. It’s my job.
Just as social justice warriors think that it is righteous to punch Nazis in the face, some who believe in American institutions, elections and democracy may think it’s justifiable to body-slam a journalist.
4. The relentless narrative being pushed by the mainstream media is that Trump has doomed the Republicans to losing both houses of Congress, and that Democrats are ascendant. Oddly, all three special elections that were supposed to be harbingers of this wonderful wave rejecting the President and his party resulted in Republican victories, the last despite the fact that the GOP candidate assaulted a reporter the night before the vote. Again, the news media is peddling partisan narratives rather than facts. I particularly enjoyed the Axios article called “Democrats making major headway in special election losses,” in which the author rejoices because Democrats aren’t losing by as much as they did in November. This is how you spin to keep a false narrative going. I have followed baseball for decades, and I can never recall a sportswriter ever penning commentary about a losing team that said it was making “major headway” because it was losing by less lopsided scores.
Why is this? Because it is obviously a pathetic, desperate, intellectually dishonest argument.