Colleen Campbell, a local Philadelphia television reporter, got herself fired for an obscenity-packed rant berating a cop outside a Philadelphia comedy club. What she didn’t know was that the whole, ugly thing was filmed. You know that rule that says “ethics is what you do when nobody’s looking except your embarrassed companion and a policeman who you have no respect for anyway because he’s just a cop? That’s the one Colleen whiffed on.
Campbell ae was kicked out of the club for “loud whispering” throughout the show. Once outside, she denied being disruptive to an officer who removed her. The officer replied that Campbell and her male friend needed to just leave the scene. The reporter replied, charmingly,
“Or what? Or what, motherfucker? Lick my asshole. How about that? Fucking piece of shit. That’s why nobody likes fucking police … idiots in this fucking town.”
Campbell, 28, didn’t know her act was caught on camera and posted to Facebook until after she received word from the station that she had been fired. Now she says…
“That’s not me or how I talk or act or anything at all…I don’t know what to do. I feel ruined and embarrassed for me and my family….I feel awful…That’s not me or how I speak or how I talk or how I was raised. I had to delete all my social media, because I’m getting threats….I wanna apologize to the officer. I don’t remember the whole altercation at all. I remember feeling attacked. I would never talk like that. It was like watching a whole different me.”
The Kathy Griffin episode sparked several of those currently popular blog posts and web essays about how social media destroys people who make “one mistake” and if it could happen to them, it can happen to you. Ethics Alarms has had several of these posts in the past, always about regular citizens who had an ugly e-mail distributed to the universe by an angry girl friend, or a tasteless or misunderstood tweet to a friend gone viral. No question: these web lynchings are out of proportion to the offense.
Then there is the next category of people who intentionally engage in unethical conduct and publicize it themselves, like the women who posted photos of themselves being disrespectful at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, getting them fired.
I have little sympathy for them. They proclaimed their asshole qualities to the world, and their employer didn’t want to be known as an organization who employed people like that. This is an ethics lesson to heed: you represent your employer in your public conduct, even when you are not working, especially when you are complicit in making that conduct public. Also in this second category is Adam Smith, the one-time executive who wrecked his own career, with the help of another cyber-mob, by proudly posting a video of himself abusing an innocent Chic-fil-A employee because Smith didn’t like her boss’s objections to gay marriage.
Finally there is the third category, where Griffin and Campbell dwell. If your job requires you to be in front of the public and you have to be liked (Griffin) or trusted (Campbell, as a reporter) to be effective, you can’t engage in conduct that makes it clear that you mean-spirited, a bully, or worse. Griffin and Campbell are kept company in this group bu people like Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olberman, Martin Bashir, and Mel Gibson.
Campbell is not even a close call. In addition to acting like a harridan, she was foul-mouthed, unjust, drunk in public, abused an officer, and later lied, initially claiming to have had only one drink (and suggesting that she had been drugged) to admitting that she had really downed five. (We don’t tend not to believe reporters who have been caught lying.) She gets on the bad side of Ethics Alarms by resorting to The Pazuzu Excuse, saying,
“That’s not me or how I speak or how I talk or how I was raised….I would never talk like that. It was like watching a whole different me.”
You see, Colleen, when there is video on YouTube of you talking like that, it means you talk like that. You can’t say you never talk like that, because you did, in fact, talk like that.
Interestingly, she also tries some tactic from Griffin’s play book, notably the “Feel sorry for me! I’m getting threats!” and “I want to apologize!” As to the first, yes, threats are bad, but they don’t make what she did any better. As for wanting to apologize, what’s stopping her? She should apologize, but with the understanding that the ugly person on the YouTube video isn’t going away. Who wants to get their news from someone like that, no matter how sorry she is?