GOOD MORNING SEPTEMBER!
1.Good riddance to August, which had the worst fall-off in traffic here relative to the previous year of any month in Ethics Alarms history. I only have theories, the main one being that last August’s surge was an anomaly fueled by the Presidential campaign and the fact that Ethics Alarms was analyzing the ethics deficits of Hillary, Trump, the news media and both parties in roughly equal measure, since they were misbehaving in roughly equal measure. Since “the resistance” and their allies in the news media, academia and elsewhere decided to reject democratic institutions like elections and the office of the Presidency in their revulsion, and mount a dangerous perpetual assault on the President with the objective of undermining his leadership and having him removed extra-Constitutionally, the left-leaning end of the blog-reading pubic has become rigid and unyielding, and unable to tolerate even considering any position but their own. I’m seeing it on Facebook, every day. Their position is indefensible on the facts, so they find any critical analysis of their conduct and attitudes unpleasant. Then again, it could be because Google is burying my posts for being insufficiently politically correct, or because I suck.
2. Here’s a perfect example of the kind of ethics issue that only deserves Warm-Up status: Melania’s shoes as she boarded Air Force One on the way to Houston.
(She was in sneakers when she landed, and was mocked for that, too.)
The New York Times and other Trump-Hate news sources actually thought this fashion choice by the ex-model was worthy of criticism. In Melania Trump, Off to Texas, Finds Herself on Thin Heels , Vanessa Friedman spend hundreds of words dissecting how the stilettos were “a symbol for what many see as the disconnect between the Trump administration and reality.” Apparently the First Lady broke the “No high heels when leaving a disaster” rule in the First Family Ethics Manual. Letter writer Dennis Donalson correctly chided the Times, writing in part,
The fact that she wore high heels when boarding a plane, regardless of her destination, is not newsworthy. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and shoes are just shoes, not “the go-to stand-in for more nuanced, complicated emotions and issues.” Give Melania, and us all, a break.
Dennis notwithstanding, I’ve decided stories like this are wonderful: they are smoking gun evidence for anyone who isn’t similarly deranged that the news media is so consumed with anti-Trump mania that it is literally unable to determine what is or isn’t fair, proportionate and reasonable coverage. If the Times thinks Melania’s shoes are such a big deal, no wonder it goes nuts over what the President says to the Boy Scouts…and no wonder it is no longer reasonable to accord such a paper any credibility or respect at all.
3. A Cobb County (Georgia) cop, now ex-cop, has learned the hard way that rueful sarcasm about his profession will be given no quarter when it lands on the third rail of race. Lt. Greg Abbott told a white driver who was being difficult in a 2016 DUI traffic stop—when she did not want to put her hands down to reach for her phone because, she said,she had seen too many videos of cops shooting unarmed citizens—“But you’re not black! Remember, we only kill black people. Yeah, we only kill black people, right?”
It sounds like something I might say, in a particularly snarky mood. However, no police department can afford to be understanding when a video shows an officer saying that, even if he punctuated it with a rim shot and was wearing a clown nose. Although it is obvious what he meant, and though he was trying to gently prod a confrontational drunk into complying with his lawful directions, and though the officer had nearly 30 years of distinguished service, he had to be fired, and authorities had to mouth the necessary pieties about how horrible he was. I would have fired him. I would have fired me.
They do not have to destroy him however. Although Abbott retired when the writing was on the wall, the Department reportedly might try to take his pension away. This will prove that it really has no tolerance for cops who admit that they only shoot black people, though it was obvious that he was sarcastically deriding the anti-cop narrative that has been fanned by activists, the news media, and some genuinely bad police officers.
4. Erik Wemple, the WaPo’s journalism blogger, has good ethics days and bad ethics days (unlike, say, CNN’s fake ethics watchdog, Brian Stelter, who has almost exclusively bad ethics days), but he had a good one this week, in an opinion piece about a judge’s decision to let the New York Times claim outrageous carelessness and incompetence when it was almost certainly being reckless, and to dismiss Sarah Palin’s libel suit. (The Ethics Alarms analysis is here.)
Wemple wrote, reflecting on his statement in an earlier post that Palin had a strong case,
Never again will we sell short jurisprudence that protects journalists when writing about public figures. These protections are so powerful that an editor, without doing any research to speak of, can insert language in an editorial accusing a politician of inciting murder — and secure a quick and unequivocal bouncing of the case.
Wemple also noted that the Times still hasn’t had the decency to apologize to Palin:
The lingering lesson of the case is that the New York Times could well have saved itself the hassle of even a short-lived court proceeding, though doing so would have required it to shed its institutional arrogance for a day or two. Consider that the paper’s response to learning of the falsehood was sufficient to satisfy a judge ruling on a lawsuit, but not sufficient to satisfy any standard of decency and respect. The immediate correction, after all, didn’t even mention Palin’s name: “An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that a link existed between political incitement and and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established.” Nor did a second correction…
As for apologies, the newspaper issued one to its readers, not to Palin herself. “The Times did not issue a full and fair retraction of its defamatory Palin Article, nor did it issue a public apology to Mrs. Palin for stating that she incited murder and was the centerpiece of a ‘sickening’ pattern of politically motivated shootings,” notes the Palin camp’s original complaint.
…Some folks in the medical industry have learned that heartfelt apologies, full disclosures and appropriate compensation not only head off lawsuits, but improve care as well….Decency pays off, in other words. We’re not arguing that the New York Times should have handed Palin a bundle of cash. A letter of apology would have done just fine. Now that a judge has dismissed her complaint, there’s no pressure on the New York Times to take this step. Which is all the more reason it should.
Only the fact that Wemple hasthe conflict of working for the Times’ rival, tainting his criticism, kept me from giving him an Ethics Hero for that section.
Meanwhile, I hope Palin isn’t holding her breath waiting for the Times to be decent.
5. On the topic of libel, Richard Simmons’ defamation suit against the National Enquirer and Radar Online has also been tossed, out of L.A. Superior Court by Judge Gregory Keosian. Those low-rent sources published stoies that Simmons was transitioning to fair womanhood, and that was not true.
The decision, notes Professor Turley, seems based on changing cultural norms. Once, alleging that someone was a homosexual was considered per se defamation. Since evolving cultural norms hold that being gay or transgender is nothing to be ashamed of, Simmons couldn’t claim to be damaged by the false allegation. Keosian writes that being falsely called transgender does not engender “hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy,” and therefore cannot be defamation.
But this is Richard Simmons, after all, not John Wayne.