Ethics Tweet Of The Month

Patrick was the long-time blogging partner of Ken White on Popehat.

Haberman, currently employed by the New York Times to manufacture negative news stories about President Trump, was fully engaged in trying to re-elect Barack Obama by spinning everything about Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign as negative. Seven years after participating in one of the most disgracefully biased Presidential campaign coverage jobs by the news media in U.S. history, Haberman now evinces regret. Unbelievable. I suppose seven years from now, after the nation has been torn apart by hyper-partisan violence arising from the Left’s media-enabled coup attempts, Haberman will tell us that, upon reflection, that her shameless peddling of “resistance” narratives and Big Lies may not have been such a good idea.



A Disappointing and Damaging Ethics Dunce: The Obama Campaign

No matter who wins the Presidency on November 6, one thing is for certain. We now can be sure that the day will come when a future Presidential campaign runs an ad that concludes, “Don’t vote for him: he’s an asshole!” For that, we will be able to place the blame on, of all people, Barack Obama, and his 2012 campaign. This is the same Barack Obama who promised, the first time he was running for President, to change the tone in Washington; the same President Obama who told a group in 2010…

“But there is a sense that something is different now, that something is broken, that those of us in Washington are not serving the people as well as we should,” Mr. Obama said. “At times, it seems like we are unable to listen to one another, to have at once a serious and civil debate. This erosion of civility in the public square sows division and cynicism among our citizens. It poisons the well of public opinion….Civility is not a sign of weakness.”

Yet his 2012 campaign’s embrace of gutter-level name calling and divisive rhetoric, with the full participation of both the President and the Vice-President, has guaranteed that the tone Obama promised to change will change for the worse, and that the well of public opinion will be more toxic than ever. Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Verdicts: The Second Debate

Some Ethics-related conclusions on Wednesday’s second Presidential debate:

Were the candidates uncivil?

I didn’t think so. There were a lot of Twitter comments about Gov. Romney being disrespectful to the President. The deference due to the President of the United States isn’t an issue when debates hew to the formal, detached format of the past. In those debates, the tone of the exchanges are so muted that the two candidates could be in different time zones. Once a different tone is set, with either candidate directly challenging statements while the other candidate is speaking, that tradition has fled, as it did last night. The challenger to a sitting President can hardly be told that he needs to be deferential in a debate; that is the equivalent of asking him to fight with one hand tied behind his back. I thought that both candidates were within the bounds of civility under the circumstances. It was certainly not the civility that I complimented in the second debate—it was a heated, sometimes rancorous argument, but it was the argument of two passionate, forceful, serious public servants, and it served the public well. Neither candidate displayed the contemptuous, rude attitude that Joe Biden adopted in the Vice-Presidential debate. Biden crossed the civility line, but the President and his challenger did not.

Was the moderator biased? Continue reading

Debate Alarm: The Fake Statistic Strikes Again


That damn statistic again. Well, there goes THAT head!

Candy Crowley, disgracefully, chose another question at a Presidential debate—the last one was 12 years ago—based on the completely false and misleading statistic, made up by activists, that women earn “72%” of what men do in the workplace, suggesting that there is widespread gender discrimination in wages. It’s not true; it hasn’t been true for decades. It’s a myth, and one that misleads the public by being given this kind of publicity and credibility. ( The question Crowley allowed even lowered the fake percentage an extra, and fake, 5% from the “77%” Bernard Shaw negligently used in a question to Joe Lieberman. in 2000.) I’m glad Romney didn’t dignify it with a direct answer—he was placed in the position of either telling the questioner, “That stat is imaginary,” or furthur imbedding it by treating it as reality.

I’m generally a fan of Candy’s, but this was irresponsible, and I’m disappointed in her. Public policy debate shouldn’t be framed by simple-minded, misleading factoids, and it is the duty of journalists to insist on facts.

Ethics Quiz: Conspiracy Theories and the Disrespect Follies

One of the problems with the hateful, vicious, hyper-partisan politics that now grips the nation is that its most severe sufferers, inevitably the so-called “bases” of the two political parties and their most vocal advocates, end up making themselves look like fools because of it. Their fervor drives out rationality, and by refusing to assign decent and reasonable levels of  respect to their political opponents, they devalue their own credibility, sometimes to the vanishing point. They may not really be fools (though some of them are), but in a real sense, they have been driven insane…by hate, by lack of proportion, and a respect deficit that banishes both fairness and responsible conduct.

Crazy Accusation A: Republicans/Conservatives… Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: CNN Morning Anchor Carol Costello

“There was criticism when Jim Lehrer was initially named to be a moderator. People said: ‘oh, another white guy; he’s too old to be doing this; we live in a new world — we don’t need an old-fashioned journalist doing these things any longer.’”

—-CNN Morning host Carol Costello, communing with PBS head Paula Kerger over Mitt Romney’s (obviously correct) assertion that public support for PBS has got to go, and joining in the despicable Democratic spin that President Obama’s less-than-stellar performance in the first debate was moderator Jim Lehrer’s fault.

Worst of the worst? I mean, if you don’t count MSNBC?

Carol Costello, Soledad O’Brien; Soledad O’Brien Carol Costello. Who is the most biased, smug, unethical news host not on MSNBC? Just when I think O’Brien has locked up the prize, Costello comes roaring back with something like this.

She ought to be fired. It’s as simple as that. Her statement is racist and ageist in the worst sense or the words; her implication is an unforgivable insult to a veteran newsman infinitely her superior, and her the content of her statement is proof of a deficient mind. Fire her. The AARP should demand it; the Republican should demand it; the Democrats should demand it, and CNN should see it as essential to maintaining whatever shred of credibility and integrity it has left. Continue reading

Liars and Lies: Cal Thomas, Bob Beckel and USA Today’s Deceptive Debate Feature

Beckel, Thomas…Liberal, Conservative…Liar, Liar…Disgrace, Disgrace.


Yesterday, after the first Presidential debate had concluded, USA Today columnists Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel’s joint feature was posted on the USA Today website; this morning, the same feature graced the newspaper’s print edition, on its op-ed page. Thomas and Beckel do a regular “point-counterpoint”-style debate which is presented as a conversation, and this one was about sprucing up the presidential debates.

“Cal Thomas is a conservative columnist. Bob Beckel is a liberal Democratic strategist. But as longtime friends, they can often find common ground on issues that lawmakers in Washington cannot” is how USA TODAY always introduces the hackneyed format. The most recent feature began like this:

BOB: Wednesday ‘s debate was déjà vu all over again. It made me wish for a fresher format. The two major party candidates for president looked and sounded presidential, standing behind two lecterns with a nice television-friendly backdrop facing a single moderator. But we’ve seen it many — too many — times before.

CAL: Don’t forget the television-friendly ties both wore after their handlers probably spent hours coming up with the right color.

BOB: And then there was the “spin room” where surrogates for both candidates claimed victory for their guy. It resembled a summer TV rerun: same script, but with different “stars.” The debate was broken into six segments, each with a question chosen by the moderator. Each was given the same amount of time to respond to the question followed by a period of discussion. The moderator, Jim Lehrer, did try to keep the candidates focused on the question at hand, but each response was obviously practiced. Except for those with HD quality sets, debates haven’t changed much since 1960.

Wait—what debate did these guys watch? Obviously, none at all.  Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: White House Spokesperson Stephanie Cutter

“I sometimes wondered if we even needed a moderator because we had Mitt Romney.”

White House’s spokesperson Stephanie Cutter in CNN’s “spin room” following the first Presidential debate last night, in the wake of a near unanimous media verdict that challenger Mitt Romney had bested the President in style and substance. Moderator Jim Lehrer was criticized by Cutter and others in the President’s camp for being too passive and allowing Romney to control the debate.

“Hmmmm. who can we blame?”

The comment, like most of Cutter’s statements to the media this campaign season, was both unfair and dumb:

  • It was an excellent debate. I thought it was the most lively and substantive debate since the Kennedy-Nixon debates, with both candidates addressing each other directly and having sufficient time to argue complex issues without resorting to sound bites and canned responses. I moderate discussions for a living, and one rule a good moderator follows is that when the participants are engaging in valuable discourse, don’t allow rigid adherence to your plan to interfere with it. Lehrer, to his credit, let the candidates talk. The debates should not be about moderators, and his example should be followed by future debate questioners.
  • Characteristic of this White House and this President, Cutter’s immediate reaction to a perceived failure was to blame someone else and duck accountability. It may be the most exasperating ethical flaw in this administration.
  • Knowing how to work the moderator is a debating skill (as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews pointed out in his lament over Obama’s performance.) Romney did not abuse the moderator (as Newt Gingrich did routinely in the GOP debates), nor did be ever seem petulant, as Obama did when he briefly groused to Lehrer that “I had five seconds before you interrupted me.”
  • Here is the dumb part of Cutter’s complaint: taking over and controlling dynamic situations is what effective leaders tend to do. Viewers saw that aspect of Mitt Romney’s experience and character last night, and it was one of the features of his performance, I think, that created a positive impression. Yes, he was commanding, and managed the situation, with the President of the United States on stage next to him. How dare he?

Personally, I was surprised at the overwhelmingly negative reaction to Obama’s performance. Yes, Romney was better, but the President hardly embarrassed himself. I think the negative reaction by the Democrats and the Obama-promoting media occurred because that they have deluded themselves into believing that Obama’s record is defensible, when it isn’t and has never been: he has an impossible task. The positive reaction of the public to Romney’s debate performance is similarly the result of a misconception. The picture of him they had been fed by attack ads and the media was of a cold-hearted, mean and venal monster prone to sticking his foot in his mouth. The reality was on display last night, and it exposed that cartoon for what it was: a grotesque misrepresentation..