Tag Archives: Brian Stelter

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.”

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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.

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Lies, Dunces, Fools, Villains, Hypocrites And Big Liars In The Resistance’s Plan E, “The President Is Disabled!” [Part 3]

This topic started out as a morning warm-up and has stretched into three posts. I’m sorry: the more I look at it, the more infuriating Plan E appears.

Let’s briefly recap, shall we?

…The news media, using the dubious claims of Michael Wolff as its catalysts, and following the dictates of the anti-Trump resistance, is trying panic the public into believing that the President is mentally incompetent, and that the provisions of the 25th Amendment might have to be activated, removing him from office.

…That this claim is legitimate, justified, or based on anything but the same view of the President the news media, progressives and Democrats had and loudly publicized through the 2016 campaign is a lie.

…Because it is an audacious, unconscionable lie devoid of evidence or justification being repeated for the purpose of making its targets deny it and discuss it, thus giving it more publicity and legitimacy (“Did the Holocaust really happen?” “Did Trump make a deal to have Russia take down Hillary?”), it fits the description of Hitler’s Big Lie propaganda technique.

…The foundation of this disgusting plot is Bandy Lee, Yale professor of psychiatry who has been condemned by her profession, who is hawking a book, who relies on rationalizations, and whose statements betray a political rather than a professional agenda.

Now we continue…

7.  Ethics Dunces: Everyone who accepts, supports or furthers Plan E, the “Trump is disabled” lie. Ethics Dunce is too mild a name here. We have the mainstream news media proclaiming to the world that the President of the United States is mentally deficient based on tweets, gossip, leaks, unethical diagnoses by discredited professionals, an author who has admitted making things up and lying to the White House to get access, and Steve Bannon. Those who enable Plan E are deliberately risking Constitutional disaster and permanent weakening of our institutions. Jonathan Turley properly called this out as the nonsense that  it was in October, only then the supposed crippling malady being claimed was narcissism. That wasn’t flying—Turley: “If we started removing public servants because they were narcissists, the nation’s Capital might become a virtual ghost town. In D.C., the question isn’t who fits that definition? but, who doesn’t?”—so Lee et al. switched to “dementia.”

That’s equally weak and dishonest, and obviously so to anyone who is objective. In the Washington Examiner, Eddy Scarry asks,  “Why hasn’t Michael Wolff’s dementia-Trump ever been seen in public?” We have seen public figures and elected officials show signs of mental problems, like Nancy Pelosi, who has frequently mixed up names, forgotten where she was, sounded disoriented and confused, and talked gibberish in public appearances, or John McCain, who had a disturbing episode in a Senate hearing before his brain tumor was discovered. Trump has had nothing like that occur, either before or after being elected. Scarry: Continue reading

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Morning Warm-Up, 12/9/17: Let’s Hate The President! Edition

Good Morning!

It’s snowing in Alexandria, Virginia!

1 Obviously,racial division works. The President of the United States quite appropriately and necessarily accepted an invitation to attend the opening on the  new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum today. So many black dignitaries then announced that they would boycott the event as a result, however, that the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the White House agreed to hold a separate private program for Trump as a compromise.

You know. Separate but equal.

The disrespect for the Presidency and democracy shown by so many black Democrats since the election, low-lighted by the Congressional Black caucus’s divisive and offensive boycott of the Inauguration has succeeded in propelling race relations in the U.S. backwards. Prime among the offenders is Rep. John Lewis, the “civil rights icon,” as he is routinely referred to in the press, an angry, bitter, hyper-partisan who sees a racism in any policy or position he doesn’t like. Lewis, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, Rep. Bennie Thompson and Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, were among the first to announce that they wouldn’t extend the courtesy to the elected President of the United States to stand with him to honor the civil rights movement and the heroes who laid the foundation of racial equality in our nation.

What is the alleged justifications for this insult, which only exacerbates the dangerous racial tensions in the U.S., which were recklessly manipulated for political gain by Democrats during the Obama administration?

The “racism” of unambiguously opposing illegal immigration and calling Islamic terrorism Islamic…

The President’s support for voter IDs and efforts to prevent voter fraud…

Trump’s refusal to be pressured into condemning a legal, First Amendment protected protest of the removal of Confederate statues after police allowed the protesters to be attacked by antifa thugs in a counter-demonstration. He said both sides were at fault. They were…

The President’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act, because opposing the signature botch of the first black President makes you a racist, and

The President’s public criticism of the incoherent Kaepernicking by NFL players.

None of these individually or collectively are evidence of a lack of support for civil rights or racial comity. Lewis and the rest are harming the nation and their own cause by their effort to “otherize” the President.

2. Nurturing a culture of contempt.  Newsweek decided that the death of Vice President Pence’s beloved cat Pickle justified this headline: “Mike Pence’s Pets Won’t Stop Dying” A commenter wrote,

You are a trash publication. And in a piece that ostensibly tries to represent the fact that the Pence family has lost some old, but long beloved pets, as well as tell us who the new pets are, you bury that content under a headline that is nothing short of gloating, hateful, sociopathic, and cruel…

Ah, but “the resistance” loves it, and that’s the target audience.

3. A news media double standard note. Both President Clinton and Barack Obama promised in their campaigns to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol. Both failed to keep their pledges. Trump made the same promise, and kept it. The overwhelming verdict by the news media and pundits: he’s a reckless fool, because if Trump does it, it must be bad. Unless you can detect another reason…

4.  Somebody tell Professor Butler. You will recall that when I explained to NPR’s Michel Martin that a woman who viewed a sexual advance as welcome decades ago could suddenly decide it wasn’t and accuse Donald trump (or Al Franken) of sexual harassment years later, my fellow panel member Georgetown Law Professor Paul Butler interjected, “Come on!”

Legendary Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue model Paulina Porizkova, whose career peaked  in the Eighties, told an interviewer that sexual harassment was such an ingrained part of the modeling business that it was viewed by the models as a “compliment.”  After all, if nobody was hitting on you, maybe you weren’t as hot as you thought you were. Some, though far from all, of the #MeToo mob’s witch hunt is based on a sanctification of “presentism,” imposing current standards on past conduct. It is not politically correct to admit it. Good for Paulina.

5. CNN Fake News Update. The arrogance of CNN in the wake of its misreporting of a story to make it appear as incriminating as possible for the Trump campaign is signature significance, and would be enlightening for the public if any mainstream media sources reported it. How ironic!

  • Behold!

That’s right. President Trump is lying again. CNN isn’t sorry it falsely told the nation that there was what sure seemed like smoking gun evidence of his collusion with the Russians, and CNN didn’t apologize. Is it fair to say ABC’s Brian Ross, who sparked a Dow Jones panic by another anti-Trump false report, should have been fired, rather than banned from reporting on anything Trump related? Gee, tough question. Should a senior reporter who can’t be trusted to report accurately and fairly on the President of the United States continue to be employed by major news organization? That’s a real puzzler!

  • And recall this, from yesterday..

Stelter’s CNN show, by the by, is called “Reliable Sources.” That Brian, the media ethics watchdog! Such a kidder!

  • The Federalist’s Molly Hemingway has “some questions for CNN to answer to restore trust between the reporters on the story, editors on the story, the news organization itself, and viewers and readers.”  If CNN was a responsible and ethical news organization, it would answer them. It won’t, of course. In fact, if CNN were ethical, it would have answered Hemingway’s questions already.

1. Did CNN ever see the email before running the story on it?

2. Does CNN believe it’s ethical to write about a document and not let readers and viewers know up front that reporters and editors haven’t seen the document?

3. If CNN didn’t see the email, who told CNN about it?

4. Why did CNN believe these sources?

5. Were they Democratic Members of Congress on the House Select Committee on Intelligence leaking information from this week’s testimony?

6. Were they staff of these members?

7. Are these sources independent or in the same office or otherwise related to each other?

8. What other stories have these individuals sourced for CNN and what dates were they published?

9. What is being done to check these stories out for inaccuracies?

10. How many of these stories related to the Russia investigation?

11. How many other stories has CNN reported where it never actually saw the documents it reported as fact?

12. Can CNN point to another big story anchored to documents that its journalists haven’t authenticated?

13. Will the reporters on this story continue to cover this beat? If so, why?

14. Which editors worked on and approved this story?

15. How will editorial processes on Russia conspiracy stories change going forward to avoid similar errors?

16. Given that the story is meaningless, as corrected, why hasn’t the story been retracted in its entirety?

17. Will CNN use these sources in the future? If so, why? If not, how can readers be sure they are not used as future sources?

18. Given the seriousness of their error and the damage they caused to the reputation of the news outlet, will CNN out the sources? If not, why not?

6. Not joking, unfortunately...On the other hand, if none of the above troubles you as a fair and patriotic American, this company will sell you this charming and inspirational ornament to crown your Christmas tree…

Each purchase comes with a priority admission to a mental heath facility.

Or should.

_________________

Pointer: Instapundit

 

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