Tag Archives: Brian Stelter

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/30/18: Going Out Like A Lamb

Good Morning!

It’s especially good because this is the last day of one of the worst Ethics Alarms months ever, with the lowest daily average of views for an April since 2013. I have no idea why, and I wouldn’t change anything anyway. I have my dark suspicions, though….

1 Pig brain ethics. Researchers at Yale University restored circulation to the brains of decapitated pigs, and kept the organs alive for several hours.  Now ethicists are wondering if this was ethical.

Hmmmm:

  • I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that if you asked the pig, he’d say that cutting his head off was more unethical than keeping his brain alive afterwards.
  • Like a lot of bioethics controversies, this is more “ick” than ethics.
  • Go on, make a “Futurama” joke.

2. Human brain ethics. Is we getting dumber? This Facebook quiz claims that “nobody” can get even 5 of these 10 questions right, and that if you get all ten right, you’re a genius. I hope that isn’t true. I would say that anyone who can’t get at least 8 of the 10 right is either under 15 or cognitively damaged. I really want to know what the average score is. If most Americans really can’t answer these, then we need to dismantle the public school system and start from scratch. And any teacher who can’t answer at least nine of the ten questions should be fired. Continue reading

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Stelter, Wolf, And The Mainstream News Media Unmasked

NBC says that many journalists at the White House Correspondents Dinner were embarrassed and angry about her ugly attacks on the President, his family, and his staff, as you can plainly see from the reaction of the guests to the comic after her performance….

Observations on an ethics fiasco:

1.  I can’t decide if I regret not writing about Brian Stelter’s self-rebutting, smoking gun screed  excoriating the President for not attending the annual White House Correspondents Dinner before the dinner took place, as was my original intention. It looks even more ridiculous after the dinner, which, as even a fool could have predicted, was a festival of Trump-hate. One reason I didn’t write it earlier was that I had written essentially the same post earlier this month,  after two Washington Post writers criticized the President for not throwing out the ceremonial first pitch when the Washington Nationals opened their season. I wrote in part,

Boy, you can’t get much more intellectually dishonest than this. Gee, why wouldn’t the President subject himself to loud, open-air jeering from the majority of a crowd of 40,000, a demonstration of contempt that would be played over and over on CNN, MSNBC,  NBC, CBS and ABC, with mocking commentary? What a puzzlement! I have no theories, do you?… Boy, I cannot imagine why President Trump wouldn’t be eager to walk into this trap. The dishonest authors of the Post article,

They want to see the President embarrassed, and are disappointed that he isn’t so foolish as to allow himself to be…

Well, I was wrong. You can get more intellectually dishonest, and CNN’s hack media critic, Brian Stelter, was just the man for the job.  In an essay that managed to pretend that the journalists at the event, including him, hadn’t spent three years denigrating and ridiculing Trump personally and 18 months trying spin the news to drive him out of office, he wrote in part,

Presidents don’t always want to show up and tell jokes and socialize with the press corps, but until now it’s been a part of the job in the modern media age.

“Historically presidents have felt that it’s important to send the signals, both to Americans and to the rest of the world, that they support this sort of quintessential part of American democracy, the First Amendment,” correspondents association president Margaret Talev said on CNN Saturday morning.

Trump evidently believes it’s politically advantageous to snub the affair and hold a rally instead. “Big crowd tonight, will be live on T.V.,” he tweeted on Saturday morning.

Well, he certainly doesn’t believe it’s politically advantageous to walk into an event where he has a target on his back, and have to sit quietly with a forced smile while everyone laughs as he is humiliated and insulted. Until now, it has been part of the job of journalists covering a presidency in any age to display a base level of respect for the man in the office, because he is in the office. Before Trump, journalists could be expected to treat Presidents with respect at least for a single night. Not now. Who would not assume that last night’s dinner would be a Trump-bashing orgy whether he attended or not? Is Brian Stelter unethical beyond belief, or is he just stupid? I have frequently wondered, and his article made me wonder more. The President isn’t doing his job by not allowing vicious and unethical journalists to undermine him in a public display of contempt? I am grateful to the President for avoid such an embarrassment for the office and the nation.

As for Taley, whom we will hear more of later, what self-serving crap.  The news media has disgraced itself and its mission, and neither President Trump nor any American citizen should support the way today’s journalists abuse their special status. Trump would be a hypocrite to help corrupt and biased journalists celebrate their poisoned craft, and to applaud while they pat themselves on the backs for misinforming, inflaming and dividing the American public.

2. Then came the actual dinner, and it was worse than even Trump could have imagined. Gee, Brian,  now what do you say? Were you shocked? Really? You couldn’t see this coming? Can you see now that the President was wise—not that it took any great feat of analysis, though it was obviously beyond your meager intellect— not to force Americans like me—you know, those who respect the office and still are stirred when they hear “Hail to the Chief” no matter who the Chief is—to see the office denigrated and insulted while arrogant, entitled, ink-stained wretches guffawed? He had a duty not to attend. Do you understand now?

3. As I noted in yesterday’s warm-up, the hired entertainment, deliberately recruited from the cabal of anti-Trump cable and network comedy shows, delivered as she was expected to, and was uniformly vile, even to the members of the White House staff who were the journalist’s guests. The representative Ethics Dunce for the fiasco was Bloomberg correspondent and president of the association Margaret Talev, who dropped one astoundingly disingenuous statement after another to rationalize it.

“My goal in putting together last night’s dinner was to unify the room and the country around journalism and the First Amendment, and I shared what I believe about those subjects in my own remarks,” she said at one point. Yeah, having the President of the United States called a pussy, a Nazi, a racist, a misogynist,  xenophobic,  unstable, incompetent and impotent is obviously the way to do that. After Michelle Wolf’s ugly act was widely panned, Talev said,

“The association, by tradition, does not preview or censor the entertainer’s remarks. Some of them made me uncomfortable and did not embody the spirit of the night. And that is protected by the First Amendment. I appreciated Sarah Sanders for joining us at the head table and her grace through the program.”

Ugh: Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Journalist Matt Pearce

“Journalism *is* activism in its most basic form. The entire basis for its ethical practice is the idea that a democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function. Choosing what you want people to know is a form of activism, even if it’s not the march-and-protest kind.”

—-Matt Pearce, national correspondent for the LA Times, tweeting his support for the definition of journalism endorsed by Rebecca Schneid, co-editor in chief of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School newspaper, as Brian Stelter, CNN’s fake broadcast journalism ethicist, silently stood by, since it is mean and bad form to tell teenagers dictating national policy that they don’t know what they are talking about.

Choosing what you want people to know.

Choosing what you want people to know.

Choosing what you want people to know.

Choosing what you want people to know.

Nah, there’s no media bias!

Yup…

“Enemy of the people.”

Res ipsa loquitur.

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Sam Nunberg And The Sharks

Sam Nunberg is a twice fired Trump aide who has been caught up in the Special Prosecutor’s fishing expedition. Yesterday, he decided to make a desperate grab for fame, infamy, attention…who knows? Taking advantage of the now thoroughly AWOL ethics of what we once called “journalism, he arranged a phone interview with MSNBC’s Trump-hating Katy Tur in the afternoon. Then the sharks moved in.  That interview was picked up by both ABC’s World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News. Then Nunberg went on a veritable swim-with-the-sharks orgy, with six interviews media interviews within four hours. He  appeared on set with MSNBC’s Ari Melber, then sat down with Erin Burnett on CNN. She had him on camera for more than a half-hour, during which he announced his intent to defy Mueller’s subpoena. Then he did a phone interview with NY1 in which he called Sarah Huckabee Sanders a “fat slob.”

Here was the most significant exchange among all of these:

Burnett: You’re sitting very close to me. We talked earlier about what people in the White House were saying to you, talking about whether you were drinking or on drugs. Talking to you, I have smelled alcohol on your breath.

Nunberg: I have not had a drink.

Burnett: You haven’t had a drink. Because it is the talk out there. I know it’s awkward. Let me give you the question: No, you haven’t had a drink?

Nunberg: My answer is no.

Burnett: Anything else?

Nunberg: No. Besides my meds. Anti-depressants. Is that okay?

I cannot begin to count the number of times I have asked a friend or loved one if he or she has been drinking because I smelled liquor on them.  The answer is always “no” or some variation of it. And they are always, always, lying. Any adult of normal experience knows this is true, including Burnett. But she’a a shark, not a journalist, not a professional, and certainly not an ethical human being. She smelled blood in the water, and its alcohol percentage didn’t bother her a bit. Continue reading

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CNN Vs. The NRA: Ethically, It’s No Contest

1. Let us begin with this. The National Rifle Association is an advocacy organization. Advocacy organizations operate exactly like lawyer representing clients, and their ethical obligations are similar. They must be loyal to the interests of the object of the representation. They must be zealous, honest, and they must avoid conflicts of interest. In this regard all advocacy organizations, regardless of where they land on the ideological or partisan spectrum, are the same. They have a mission, and a job, and a duty to do it well. The ACLU exists to be an advocate for absolute integrity of the Bill of Rights, particularly the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Ninth. The NRA has a similar mission regarding the Second Amendment, because the ACLU has never been zealous about that one. FIRE advocates for free speech on college campuses, which is often not a First Amendment issue.

NARAL is a zealous advocate for abortion rights, in absolute terms. Most advocacy groups adopt absolute positions which often seem unreasonable to moderates. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is an advocacy group for business—I once worked for them—and opposed government regulations. The Association for Justice—I worked for them too–is an advocacy group for plaintiff’s trial lawyers, and fights any efforts at reforming the tort system, such as capping damages or punishing frivolous lawsuits. All of these and more take the extreme position on one side of a controversy to balance other advocacy groups that take extreme positions in opposition. In this they are very much like opposing lawyers in a trial, except the public is the jury. This is how democracy works, and it is the only way democracy can work.

Condemning and demonizing an advocacy organization because one does not agree with or dislikes the position it advocates is, in my view, exactly like condemning a lawyer for effectively representing an unpopular client—and a lot of ignorant Americans do that, too. Citizens have a right to have an effective organization promote their views and opinions in the court of public opinion, just as citizens have a right to have a competent attorney to represent their interests in a court of law. Attacks on this principle are unsustainable, unethical, and undermine democracy.

2. CNN, and other segments of the news media but especially CNN, has been aggressively attacking this principle since February 14, when Nicholas Cruz opened fire. CNN is NOT an advocacy organization, or is not supposed to be. It is a news organization, and its job and duty is to present facts to the “jury” without trying to influence it one way or the other. On the gun issue, CNN has completely abandoned objectify and its duty to inform, in an unethical effort to advocate for anti-gun interests antithetical to journalism standards.

3. Here is a stunning admission by the New York Times, which has been almost as shrill in its call for gun bans as CNN, in a front page story (Bolding mine):

To many of its opponents, that decades-long string of victories is proof that the N.R.A. has bought its political support. But the numbers tell a more complicated story: The organization’s political action committee over the last decade has not made a single direct contribution to any current member of the Florida House or Senate, according to campaign finance records.

In Florida and other states across the country, as well as on Capitol Hill, the N.R.A. derives its political influence instead from a muscular electioneering machine, fueled by tens of millions of dollars’ worth of campaign ads and voter-guide mailings, that scrutinizes candidates for their views on guns and propels members to the polls.

“It’s really not the contributions,” said Cleta Mitchell, a former N.R.A. board member. “It’s the ability of the N.R.A. to tell its members: Here’s who’s good on the Second Amendment.”

Continue reading

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Two Ethics Heroes : Media Critics Jeff Greenfield And Howard Kurtz

 

Maybe there are some cracks in the wall. God, I hope so.

Two media critics affiliated with major news organizations have recently come right out and stated what we have been talking about here on Ethics Alarms regarding the failure of journalists to observe core ethical standards in their commitment to bring down a President who horrifies them, and who has not taken his abuse lying down, as Presidential norms previously required.

The sharp contrast with Greenfield and Kurtz’s remarkable candor that marks most of their industry was on display today, as The Washington Post held a series of panel discussions and aired live video around the theme “Americans & The Media: Sorting Fact from Fake News.” One  segment featured Post political reporter Dan Balz, one of the Post reporters I would categorize as a straight-shooter most of the time, talking to PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff and Fox Special Report host Bret Baier. Woodruff’s comments were obtuse and depressing, but typical of most journalists and their defenders.

 BALZ: Judy you said something recently  I want to read to people: “You shouldn’t go into journalism if you want to win a popularity contest. If you’re doing your job, there are always going to be people who criticize your reporting. But we’ve never been at a place like we are today where there’s practically an entire industry around criticizing the media and holding the mainstream media up as suspect [ Balz didn’t read, but she also wrote, “and out to destroy an entire political philosophy in this country.” Well I said “most of the time.”]. I think the term ‘fake news’ has done a lot of damage to the media.” Describe the damage.

WOODRUFF: The damage is in the minds and the eyes of people who are consumers all across the country. And you see it in the polls. You see it in this [Knight Foundation] poll, a lessening of trust in the news media. I believe – it sounds corny, but I believe so passionately that a free press, free media, the role that we play, news media in our democracy, is part of what holds democracy together. And if enough Americans start thinking the press is not to be believed, that we are to be shoved to the side, regulated, or treated, controlled in some way, then I think we’ve got real problems. Even if it doesn’t get to that point, and they just don’t believe what we’re doing, then I think our democracy is weakened, and I think that’s what’s happening.

Got that? It’s the critics who are undermining the news media, not the unethical news media conduct that justifies the criticism! This quote is astounding. Journalists like Woodruff don’t see anything wrong with how they are doing their job, or rather not doing it. What harms democracy, Judy, is journalists behaving so unethically that the the public loses trust in them, not the criticism.

Now here are the two Ethics Heroes that do not parrot Woodruff’s defensive spin: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/8/2018: Regrets, “It Rings True,” Bannon The Weasel, And “But It Would Be Wrong…”

Good Morning, everyone!

1 On the other hand, “Bite me!” I find myself feeling bad about a Facebook retort yesterday laying out an old friend, also a former Democratic official’s staff member, for taking a snide shot at my “bias” after my answer to a query about anti-Trump legal ethicist Richard Painter. Painter has been on the “remove Trump by any means possible” bandwagon since the 2016 election, and because he was an ethics advisor to the Bush White House, he has been a favorite go-to source for CNN and MSNBC while authoring bizarre op-eds that distort the Constitution.  My response about Painter was that he has apparently been driven mad by the whole Trump experience, and is now in the process of wrecking a very fine reputation as his colleagues in the field, like me, roll their eyes and weep. (Painter is a Bush family loyalist, and the guessing is that he is following the lead of the two Georges, who hate Trump to pieces.) Yes, Richard was among the first to advocate Plan E, removing Trump because he is “unable” to do the job, so he’s especially hot right now.

I feel bad because I’m a nice guy, but I’ll be damned if I will put up with being called “biased” for correctly pointing out what is dishonest and wrong about the various plots to circumvent the election. It’s not a “bias” to believe that an entire party attempting to undermine an elected President is wrong, and that lawyers and ethicists who pander to that mob have slipped a professional cog. I sent my friend to this website to find any evidence that I am a Trump fan, other than being the apparently rare critic who will give the President credit when he deserves it, and who will defend him against fake news and dishonest accusations. I’m a passionate supporter of U.S. values, the system, our institutions, the Presidency itself and elections. That’s not bias. That’s called being an ethical citizen.

2. Signature significance for a weasel. Five days after his reported quotes in “Fire and Fury” including one accusing Don Jr. of “treason” caused President Trump to slam him on Twitter, former White House aide and Breitbart power Steve Bannon sent an “apology” to Axios, of all places. This is known as ” crawling back.” Bannon, while at the White House, leaked to reporters and played both ends against the middle to further his own agenda, and betrayed the President’s trust and confidence by aiding and abetting sleazy political gossip-monger Michael Wolff.  Now, after Bannon’s split with Trump has obviously cost him support, influence and credibility, the man who chomped on the hand that fed him wants a do-over. Only the worst species of unethical and unprincipled weasel would try something like this. If he genuinely regretted the quotes, he would have  immediately said that they misrepresent him, and repudiated them. Waiting five days makes it clear that Bannon was waiting to see how the episode was playing in the media and public to decide whether to stand by his own words or not. The short version of this is: “Integrity? What’s that?”

Moreover, the text of the “apology” shows that Bannon isn’t very bright. Why bother looking pathetic and weak if you aren’t even going to do it effectively? He doesn’t even apologize:  he says that he regrets his “delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.”

Ha! I bet he does. But this is a Level 10 apology on the Apology Scale:

An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

3. Is expressing “regret” the same as an apology? Let’s look closely at which mainstream media outlets call Bannon’s statement an “apology.” Axios does. When President Obama was making his so-called “apology tour,” as it was dubbed by the Right, journalists rushed to his defense, arguing that saying in multiple nations that he “regretted” the policies of his predecessors and the past actions of the United States was not the same as apologizing for them.

4. Somewhere, Dan Rather is smiling...I’m putting this in the Warm-Up because, as you may have noticed, yesterday’s posts were dominated by “the resistance’s” Plan E and the news media’s dutiful assist by hyping “Fire and Fury.” Incredibly—yes, I’m an idiot: the degree to which the news media will abandon core journalism ethics if it means bringing Trump down still surprises me–there was little effort on the news shows yesterday to hide the fact that much of Wolff’s book is unreliable,  and that the author admits it. Nonetheless, they reported on the salacious quotes and accounts, debated in panels whether it “proved” the President is disabled, and generally presented the book to the public as fact, not fiction.

How can journalists possibly justify this? It can’t be justified, but the news media’s anti-Trump bias has made them stupid and incompetent.

For example, CNN MEDIA ETHICIST—I have to place both hands over my head to prevent an explosion when I type that, which means I have to type with my noseBrian Stelter tweeted,

Big picture point: Wolff’s errors are sloppy, but many Trump experts say the book “rings true” overall.

Continue reading

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