Good morning, Ethics Lovers!
1. Coming attractions. Rep. Steve King is now officially a human ethics train wreck, but boy, it would be nice if we could trust the news media. I will be writing a full post on this matter soon, but in the meantime, if someone can find me the full text of the alleged “interview” with the Times that generated King’s infamous “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” statement, I would be very happy. The link used by all sources reporting on the interview and its aftermath, including the link used by the Times, goes to “Before Trump, Steve King Set the Agenda for the Wall and Anti-Immigrant Politics.”
But that’s not an interview! It’s an anti-King hit piece. I wanted to see the context of King’s remark, like, say, the question that evoked it. Is that too much to ask? All we get, however, is this:
Mr. King, in the interview, said he was not a racist. He pointed to his Twitter timeline showing him greeting Iowans of all races and religions in his Washington office. (The same office once displayed a Confederate flag on his desk.)
At the same time, he said, he supports immigrants who enter the country legally and fully assimilate because what matters more than race is “the culture of America” based on values brought to the United States by whites from Europe.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
That’s telling us about the interview, not the interview itself, and doing so while poisoning the well. More later. However, the fact that the Times won’t provide the unredacted interview itself is troubling.
2. Trump Tweets. Finally I can compliment a good one. This morning the President said, in the climax of a tweet, “They got caught spying on my campaign and then called it an investigation.” I’m critical of Trump’s communications skills, but you can’t do better than that. I also strongly suspect that he is correct.
3. Yet more casting ethics controversy! Cross-filed in the Ethics Alarms “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind’s made up!” files, the Perpetually Outraged are ginning up a protest over the report, according to Britain’s Daily Star, that Lady Gaga and Angelina Jolie are competing for the role of Cleopatra in a new film. They should be protesting that anyone is going to inflict another Cleopatra film on us, after the previous one, with Elizabeth Taylor looking fat and bored, was one of the biggest bombs in Hollywood history.
“Stop whitewashing Cleopatra!!!” tweeted Kendra James, writer and editor at Shondaland.com. “Film the story of literally any other queen on the vast African continent.” This is an especially good version of the complaint to address, since it is gallactically stupid. The last part is really dumb, as Cleopatra’s life, even without fictionalizing, and her political influence at the time were extraordinary, and the life of “any other queen” won’t come within miles and miles of equaling her in dramatic potential and audience interest. Then there’s the inconvenient fact that Cleopatra was white, at least, if I’m white. She was of Northern Greek stock (like me!) and ruler of Egypt through the conquering ways of Alexander the Great—which is one reason she lived in Alexandria (like me!) During the “Black is Beautiful” phase in the Sixties and Seventies, when civil rights activists were claiming that all sorts of historical figures were really black (Jesus was a big one), the historically and anthropological myth that Cleopatra was “of color” became widespread. Thus black singer/ actress Leslie Uggams—Kizzy in TV’s “Roots”— was cast as young Cleo in the 1968 Broadway musical (a flop) called “Her First Roman,” based on Shaw’s “Caesar and Cleopatra.” It doesn’t matter, really, what an actress playing an ancient historical figure looks like, unless a project claims historical accuracy. The reason that musical flopped wasn’t because Cleopatra was black: I saw the show in Boston. Leslie was great. Claiming that the character can’t be played by a white actress, however, is indefensible, and bad history.
There is literally no evidence that Cleopatra was black. She was Greek, and all surviving artwork and depictions of her show her to be a striking woman with a memorable nose.
She also was apparently only 5 feet tall and chubby. Let’s cast Melissa McCarthy!
4. Nah, there’s no difference between Obama judges and Trump judges! A necessary, reasonable, and important question on the upcoming census form was struck down by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, who said yesterday that while asking those surveyed to reveal whether they were citizens or not was legal, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross hadn’t followed the proper procedure in adding it. Of course, Democrats are terrified of the question because it will almost certainly reveal that “Blue” states don’t have as many citizens as their Congressional representation indicates. Pro illegal immigration groups argue that adding the question might frighten “immigrant” households away from participating in the census. Why would it frighten immigrants who are in the country legally? And why should I care if it frightens illegal immigrants, who shouldn’t be taking the census anyway?
I read this news, and assumed that it was a blatantly partisan decision. Sure enough, Furman is an Obama appointee. The issue will be considered by the Supreme Court in February, and I expect justice and common sense to prevail.