Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/16/18: Those Wacky Conways, And The Anti-Trump News Media Goes To The Dogs

Good morning.

1. A conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theorists...Last night, a CBS procedural that I am finally sick of, “Criminal Minds,” appeared to be taking sides in the Trump vs. the FBI wars, with a side-swipe at Alex Jones, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The episode set up a conflict between the Good FBI agents who are the stars of the show, and the crazy, paranoid, anti-government  “Truthers” who see government law enforcement as sinister and manipulative. (There was special focus on the ridiculous Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, with one of the tough serial killer hunter breaking down in tears remembering the massacre.) The most vocal anti-FBI character in the episode, who sneered out her every line about the series heroes (bad direction, in my view), was revealed at the end as the “unsub,” the psychopathic killer.

For some reason this was the first time it occurred to me how much prime  time network TV serves as a PR service for the FBI, with the virtue, bravery and unquestioned rectitude of the agency and its employees being central to multiple dramas. The propaganda is escalating too: Dick Wolf of “Law and Order” fame is launching a new CBS series called, creatively, “FBI.” You would think, would you not, that this would be an odd time to produce such a series, with the reputation and credibility of J.Edgar’s baby at an all-time, and most deserved, low. However, Hollywood and the entertainment industry now sees its role differently than seeking mere ratings.

There is nothing wrong with TV writers and producers bring their political agendas into our living rooms, and there’s not a thing we can do about it anyway, other than change channels. Rod Serling used to get awfully preachy sometimes on “The Twilight Zone.” This was mighty ham-handed pro-Peter Strzok advocacy, though by CBS, or at least it seemed that way to me.

2. Marital Ethics. This is weird. Ethics Alarms has discussed the unethical conduct of Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, who has become a popular “resistance” and #NeverTrump figure by tweeting virulent criticism of the President, who employs his wife. Now Kellyanne has escalated the problem with an interview criticizing her husband, telling a reporter that his sniping ” is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows.”  Then, according to an AOL report, she asked that her comments be attributed to “a person familiar with their relationship.” The reporter, correctly, refused.

It is a breach of loyalty and respect for one spouse to criticize the other in the news media. It is cowardly and a breach of honesty to criticize one’s spouse and to try to remain unaccountable for it by pretending the critique came from someone else.

What a fun couple! What a strange couple. What an unethical couple… Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication has boarded the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck.

Is the body of Charlie Rose’s work as a journalist less impressive, valuable, expert, enlightening and professional because we have learned that he is an abusive, sexist, gross, harassing pig? Of course not.

That being the case, why is The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication revoking the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism it bestowed on him in 2015? Let’s have the school’s explanation, shall we?

In the words of Dean Christopher Callahan:

We give the award each year based on the knowledge we have of a recipient at that time. When new information about a recipient surfaces, the question we ask is not whether the award would be given again with a new set of facts, but whether the transgressions are so egregious that they demand nothing less than a reversal of history.

I believe Mr. Rose’s actions of sexual misconduct reported by The Washington Post and other media outlets, which are largely unrefuted, rise to that level. The damage caused by Mr. Rose’s actions extends far beyond the news organizations for which he worked. The actions victimized young women much like those who make up the overwhelming majority of Cronkite students – young women who deserve to enter workplaces that reward them for their hard work, intelligence and creativity and where they do not have to fear for their safety or dignity. In rescinding this award, we hope to send an unequivocal message that what Mr. Rose did is unacceptable, and that such behavior – far too common in not just media companies but many organizations – must stop.

So now you know why. The school, and its dean, and everyone else involved in this decision, is craven, hell-bent on virtue-signalling, bereft of integrity, hypocritical, and intellectually dishonest. The school has never withdrawn an award or honor: are we really supposed to believe that there is an established procedure for considering whether or not one should be revoked in an instance of “new information” that has nothing whatsoever to do with the reason the honor was bestowed? Rose’s shame hardly did any lasting harm to the news organizations he worked for beyond the inconvenience of replacing him. He discriminated against women? Being the biggest cheese in William Paley’s all-male news room, Walter Cronkite’s treatment of women during the “Mad Men” error probably wouldn’t pass muster today, though I can’t picture Uncle Walter parading naked in front of female colleagues. (Fortunately I can’t picture Charlie doing that either). If Walter’s Juanita Broaddrick, reading about the slap-down of Rose, comes out with a credible accusation against the icon, will the Arizona State-based institution change its name to the Dan Rather sch…no, it can’t do that. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences

The Academy Awards announced that it will allow PriceWaterhouseCoopers to continue to represent the Oscars’ integrity as well as the organizations pledge that the results aren’t being, will not be, cannot be and haven’t been rigged, misread, wrongly tallied or mistakenly announced.

This, despite the fact that the firm proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it cannot be trusted to do this, by either the Academy or the Oscar viewing audience, because it did not do it, exposing its carelessness and incompetence on national TV.

This is NASA letting Morton Thiokol continue to build space shuttles. This is the federal government re-hiring the same IT firm that made Healthcare.gov. This is Wesley Snipes rehiring the tax expert who told him he didn’t have to pay income taxes.

In addition to complete failure of management that the Academy’s decision to let bygones be bygones represents, it also has cultural consequences. As a culture, the United States has become allergic to accountability in all sectors. Over at Wells Fargo, where management presided over a nation-wide conspiracy to defraud depositors,  CEO John Stumpf opted for early retirement after the scandal, and is walking away with around $130 million, according to SEC filings.  Unless further action is taken by Wells Fargo’s board, which looks increasingly unlikely, Stumpf will leave with a fortune made up of stocks, cash payouts and other compensation. The Obama Administration, as documented here, repeatedly refused to hold incompetent agency heads accountable for fiascos, notably both of its Attorney Generals, and all three of its White House spokesmen. University president after university president disgraced their institutions by capitulating to racist, anti-speech, anti-education demands by students without consequence to their tenure. In journalism, Brian Williams remains on NBC’s payroll and the TV screen, despite having proven himself to be a habitual liar. Continue reading

The Right Wing Media Tries A “Gotcha!” On Brian Williams, And Looks Ignorant, Biased And Unfair

Atom bomb cloud

Bias makes us stupid, as I write here often.

One after another,  conservative media reporters  pounced on MSNBC’s Brian Williams, the exiled ex-NBC anchorman, for saying this on the air, in a discussion about the anti-nukes movement, re-energized by President Obama’s remarks at Hiroshima:

“It is and that is still the threat that people worry about that this material will fall into the wrong hands. If people have found the U.S. to be preachy in the years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki about the use of weapons, it’s because we’re the only nation to have used them in anger. Sometimes, I am amazed that the world has been without these weapons all the years since, but it is a point of, a great pride by the people who have seen to it.”

My God! Brian Williams, that lying liberal, actually smeared the United States and President Truman by suggesting that we dropped the atom bombs out of spite! Revenge! Hate! And he did it on Memorial Day weekend; its’ an insult to everyone who fought and died in that war!

Curis Houck, Newsbusters: “Williams  took a swipe at the entire reason that Truman had the bombs dropped (which was to end the war)”…

David Rutz, Washington Freebeacon: “MSNBC’s Brian Williams said the U.S. used nuclear weapons against Japan “in anger” Friday, an expression sure to upset those who recognize the decision potentially saved hundreds of thousands of lives by bringing about a swift end to World War II.”

Matt Vespa, Town Hall: “[T]he notion that anger was seemingly the primary motivating factor in dropping atomic bombs is nonsense. We did it to end the war….”

Sarah Hoyt, Instapundit: “WHAT THE? HOW ABOUT WE USED THEM IN STRATEGY?  Do these people have to have their brains ablated before getting newsmedia jobs?…And if we had used them in anger, would they have stopped the war less?  Stopped the massacre of our troops less? Stopped the likely suicide (in case of American invasion) of Japanese citizens less?  Dear Brian Williams, get a clue.”

There is nothing quite like living up to the worst stereotypes of conservatives pushed by the liberal media. Continue reading

The Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards, Part II: The Worst of Ethics 2015

Donald and Hillary

Ethics Corrupters of the Year

(Awarded to the unethical public figure whose prominence, popularity and success most corrupts the public’s ethical values)

A Tie: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Nobody else is close.

I’m sorry that these two are so dominating the awards. They also dominated the posts last year. If they dominate the awards next year, God Save The United States of America…

Double Standard Of The Year

The deference accorded to anti-white protesters on dozens of college campuses, not just by spineless administrators but much of the news media. Similar protests, conduct and rhetoric by white students would be immediately condemned for what it would be: blatant racism.

 Lie of the Year

Hands Up! Don’t shoot! The lie was uttered in 2014, but acquired new status after the Justice Department unexpectedly and definitively determined that the evidence did not support the inflammatory myth that Mike Brown was shot dead in Ferguson while trying to surrender to Officer Wilson. Never mind: the lie is part of the manifesto of Black Lives Matter and similar groups; it is still alluded to by activists and shameless politicians; it still divides the nation and focuses hate on police departments; and it has contributed to getting police officers killed while making communities more vulnerable to crime. It may be the Lie of the Decade.

Uncivil U.S. Official of the Year

Justice Antonin Scalia, who crossed all lines of judicial restraint, collegiality and civility when he excoriated his colleague, Justice Kennedy, who was the fifth vote in the majority of SCOTUS’s ruling  that same-sex marriage was a Constitutional right no state could deny, with this comment in a footnote:

“If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”

——U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia,

 

The Jesse Jackson Award 

(For the Year’s Worst Amateur Diplomat)

Barack Obama.  I know, this is snarkier than I like to be in these awards, but the signature diplomatic measure of the past year, the astounding, one-sided, dangerous and Munich-like deal with Iran, could only be the product of an ideological tyro placing wishes and hopes over diplomatic responsibility, and not for the first time. For most Presidents, trading dangerous terrorists for a deserter would be nadir. History has seen many tragedies seeded by world leaders with no diplomatic skills: the disastrous Treaty of Versailles,  Potsdam, and the treaty that this one most resembles, negotiated by the hapless Neville Chamberlain. We can only hope that the worst case scenario doesn’t materialize, but if it does not, it will be moral luck.

Most Unethical Sports League

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts, May 7, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Krupa/Pool ORG XMIT: BKS06

The NFL, for the third year in a row. “Concussion,” Tom Brady, Deflategate, more evidence that NFL players are slowly killing themselves with brain damage, Johnny Manziel.  What a great sport pro football is.

Sports Cheat of the Year

Tom Brady, New England Patriots ball-deflating quarterback.  Brady eventually avoided punishment because the NFL botched both its investigation and its imposition of penalties, but his smirking, cynical comments about the incident made it clear that he thinks cheating is no big deal, and most of his fans agree.

Not surprisingly, Brady supports Donald Trump.

Unethical Lawyers of the Year

Law Firm Division:  Lawyers Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut of the Florida firm Adams & Diaco were found to have “maliciously” set up the drunken-driving arrest of their opposing counsel in a  high-profile defamation trial. The plot involved a comely paralegal and a cooperative DUI cop. Last I checked, it looked like all three lawyers would be disbarred for life.

Scary Lawyer Division: California lawyer Douglas Crawford  held a can of pepper spray a yard from the face of the opposing lawyer saying, “I will pepper-spray you if you get out of hand.” Then the lawyer pointed a stun gun at Traver’s head and said, “If that doesn’t quell you, this is a flashlight that turns into a stun gun.” To show he wasn’t kidding, Crawford discharged the stun gun the startled lawyer’s face.

Hard-working Lawyer Division: Massachusetts lawyer,  Karen Andrade, was  charged with prostitution after a police investigated a report by a suspicious neighbor and  found online reviews of both the lawyer’s legal services and her escort services

Celebrity Lawyer Division: Michael Cohen,  one of Donald Trump’s lawyers, told the Daily Beast that it was legally impossible for a man to rape his wife. He was only a couple of decades and many court cases behind on his research. That piece of legal scholarship came after he had threatened the website’s staff in language usually associated with loan sharks and pimps.

Unethical Prosecutor of the Year

Mosby

Baltimore’s City Attorney Marilyn Mosby
Continue reading

This Is NBC: With All The Ethical Reasons To Fire Donald Trump, It Picks An Unethical One

Dignity...always dignity.

Dignity…always dignity.

It has happened here with Bill Clinton, Bristol Palin, and many others: this is the downside of running a website committed to fairness. I have had to come to the defense of some very unethical people through the years, but I can’t think of anyone I detest defending more than Donald Trump.

From the AP:

“NBC said Monday that it is ending its business relationship with mogul and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump because of comments he made about Mexican immigrants during the announcement of his campaign.”

Let me count the lies:

1. Anyone, including AP, who believes this is why NBC fired Trump is too gullible to function in society. He was fired because Mexico, Univision and illegal immigration advocates were threatening to make NBC’s life miserable. If what Trump said mattered to NBC, NBC would have fired him shortly after he said it.

2. Trump said nothing about Mexican immigrants. His much-maligned quote discussed illegal immigrants from Mexico “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people.”  The unethical and dishonest effort by the news media to confuse the immigration issue and the crucial, material distinction between legal immigrants, whom the nation should welcome, and illegal immigrants, which it should not and must not, is more harmful than anything Trump has said on the topic.

3. The statement is deceitfully phrased to represent what Trump said as a slur on Mexicans, as a racist statement. Trump was talking about, in his typically lazy, crude fashion, our national problem of  unchecked illegals streaming across the Southern border, and the undeniable fact that this group includes criminals and rapists (like here, here, here…how many examples do you want?), as well as “good people.” Trump obviously wasn’t claiming that all illegal immigrants were criminals and rapists, because that would mean that some of the criminals and rapists would also have to be “good people.” But Mexico, which counts on us to solve their social problems for it, and illegal alien activists, who don’t want Americans to know that many of those sneaking into our country are not the salt of the earth, but quite the opposite, have successfully imposed a political correctness embargo on speaking the unpleasant truth.

Now on to the hypocrisy. NBC firing Trump is not just a little like, but almost EXACTLY THE SAME AS A&E firing Duck Dynasty’s scion Phil Robertson for public statements that were completely consistent with the reality star’s persona as A&E understood from the moment it inked a contract with him. The same is true of Trump’s trademark bluntness. The one difference: Robertson’s homophobic statements were blunt and ignorant, while Trumps statements about illegal immigrant were blunt and true. Continue reading

Observations On The News That Pete Rose Bet On Baseball As A Player After All

Rose Time cover

The story is here.

To summarize for those new to this story and its various issues:

Because the 1919 World Series fixing scandal nearly toppled the sport, any player, manager or coach who bets on baseball games will be automatically banned from the game for life and from the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame for perpetuity. Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader as a player and a certain Hall of Fame admittee under normal circumstances, was shown to have bet on baseball while a manager, after his playing career. For many years he lied, denying that this was true, then came clean in time to hawk his autobiography.

Rose has always had a lot of sympathy from fans and players, in part because he was such an exciting player, in part because he played with the innocent enthusiasm of a child and  he is a child, at least emotionally, and mostly because it was believed, since Rose insisted that it was true—yes, I know that sounds strange, given Rose’s record of serial dishonesty—that he never gambled on baseball while he was a player.

This season, public sentiment had been building to finally pronounce Rose forgiven. He had even progressed to the stage that some advertisers were using him in TV commercials. Baseball has a new Commissioner, and he had signaled that he would give Rose’s long-standing and ignored petition for reinstatement due consideration.

All of that is gone now, presumably forever.

Some last thoughts on Rose, as with any luck this is the last occasion I will have to write about him: Continue reading