Apparently the New York Times got tired of Tucker Carlson’s two faces, so media reporter Ben Smith did a hit piece on the Fox News star. He revealed that Tucker, despite his oft-expressed disdain for the mainstream media and its reporters, “spends his time when he’s not denouncing the liberal media trading gossip with them. He’s the go-to guy for sometimes-unflattering stories about Donald J. Trump and for coverage of the internal politics of Fox News (not to mention stories about Mr. Carlson himself).” Smith adds, “I won’t talk here about any off-the-record conversations I may have had with him. But 16 other journalists (none from The Times; it would put my colleagues in a weird position if I asked them) told me on background that he has been, as three of them put it, ‘a great source.’”
In other words, Carlson is a hypocritical double agent. condemning the mainstream media on his TV show and doing favors for them behind the scenes. One especially nauseating tale is how Tucker related a private conversation with President Trump that made Carlson look good and Trump look foolish for an coming book by the Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender, “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost.” Since only two people were on the line, and Trump didn’t reveal it, Carlson is the only possible source. But the whole article is nauseating, including the casual way all the participants excuse such “double games” as business as usual. Everybody does it, you see, so it’s OK. “It’s so unknown in the general public how much he plays both sides,” one reporter for a prominent publication who gets dirt from Carlson regularly told Smith. Another Washington journalist explained how Carlson benefits by assisting the same reporters he says he “hates,” saying, “If you open yourself up as a resource to mainstream media reporters, you don’t even have to ask them to go soft on you.”
Predictably, some in the conservative news media are defending Carlson. J. Peder Zane wrote that Smith induced his non-Times colleagues to break “a cardinal rule of journalistic ethics.” If there is one thing I think Ethics Alarms (and others) have established beyond a reasonable doubt over the past decade, it is the fact that there are no journalistic ethics, just ancient ideals that reporters and editors pretend to revere while violating them at will whenever it suits their agendas. Zane writes, “If Carlson does dish dirt off the record, Smith’s piece is a yet another new low for our increasingly partisan press. As my RealClearInvestigations colleague Tom Kuntz observed, ‘Protecting confidential sources is, of course, one of the bedrocks of journalism. The free flow of information depends on people being able to share hard truths without jeopardizing their careers or lives.'”
Right. Only the news media’s hacks are so arrogant and ethically inert that they can puff themselves up and claim virtue when what they do is encourage people to violate confidences, professional ethics and laws. The reporters benefit from the betrayals, and cover up the unethical conduct after the fact. In this, they consider themselves heroes. In my profession, a leak of confidential client information is grounds for disbarment. In the government, leaks are illegal. In organizations, they violate contracts and terms of employment. I have no sympathy for any leakers having to face the consequences of their unethical acts, even in the rare situations when leaking the information revealed is ethically defensible under utilitarian principles. If it’s that important to violate your formal ethical duties, then you should be ready and willing to accept the consequences.
Otherwise, we get, well, a lot of Tucker Carlsons.
That Carlson behaves like so much of the slimy Washington swamp he pretends to deride doesn’t surprise me one bit; Ethics Alarms marked him as untrustworthy years ago. He is another TV pundit like Rachel Maddow, Chris Cuomo, Don Lemon and so many others. He’s not a truthteller or courageous culture warrior; he just plays one on TV, and makes a lot of money doing it. Sure, he can be right in his analysis; Bill Cosby was right about some things too. I wouldn’t trust either of them, and nobody should be deceived into believing otherwise.
Carlson is right when he excoriates the mainstream media as fake and untrustworthy journalists, and Ben Smith is doing a public service by letting the gullible know that Carlson is a weasel in human form. They deserve each other. There are no good guys or innocent victims in sight.