Easter Ethics Revelations: Media Lies About Asian Hate Crimes And Daniel Webster

Here’s a revelation: that melody, my favorite of the Easter hymns, is the work of Sir Arthur Sullivan. Yes, that Sullivan.

1. Oh, no! Not the National Review too! We are indeed surrounded by idiots…in this story about how Hispanic activists are pushing to keep former President Barack Obama’s name off a school building in Waukegan, Illinois because, you see, he enforced the law by deporting illegal immigrants—can’t have THAT!—the National Review writes, “The Waukegan Board of Education looks to rename two of its schools, Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Daniel Webster Middle School. The board formed renaming committees for the schools named after Jefferson, who owned slaves, and Webster, who supported slavery.”

This is how the American public gets stupid. Of course it’s beyond idiotic not to name a school after the man whose vision of a new nation and whose brilliant mission statement made our existence possible, not to mention the fact that his words planted the seeds that resulted in slavery’s eventual end in North America. Letting that pass for the nonce, however, Daniel Webster, the New England lawyer, U.S. Senator and member of multiple cabinets in the 19th Century did not “support slavery,” and saying he did is historical libel.

To the contrary, Webster was a lifetime opponent of slavery. In an 1837 speech he called slavery a “great moral, social, and political evil,” adding that he would vote against “any thing that shall extend the slavery of the African race on this continent, or add other slaveholding states to the Union.”

Webster, however, also did not want to see a civil war, or to have the Southern states leave the union over the slavery question. His most famous quote, “Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!” expressed his priorities. Webster was one of many patriots and brilliant figures of the time desperately seeking a way to keep the nation together while slavery was stressing its bonds. He supported several compromises to that end, including the much-criticized Compromise of 1850, which included the reviled Fugitive Slave Act. Those who condemn Webster now for his best efforts to avert war and mass secession are engaging in the worst kind of hindsight bias. What would be their brilliant solution to the situation faced by Senators in the 30 years before the Civil War?

My analysis has always been that Webster, Henry Clay and others successfully delayed the inevitable schism over slavery until, by good fortune or, as Abe liked to say, “providence,” got a President in office who had the guts and the skill to deal with the dilemma boldly and successfully. If the South had seceded under any of the Presidents after Jackson and before Lincoln, we would have two Americas on this continent today—or maybe just one, enslaved by Nazi Germany.

Daniel Webster did NOT “support slavery.” Show some damn respect.

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Ethics Hero: Trump Defense Lawyer Michael van der Veen

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I have had dreams that I was in a position to tell a TV news anchor exactly how biased, unethical and destructive his or her profession has become. So far, I have not had that opportunity, but the fact that Donald Trump’s defense attorney in the just completed Senate “trial,” a victory for his client, did have such an opportunity and took full advantage of it marks him as an Ethics Hero.

President Trump’s attorney, Michael van der Veen, appeared on CBS News and was asked by Lana Zak about Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (obnoxious and gratuitous) comments after Trump’s acquittal, specifically whether he was surprised at McConnell’s venom. “I’m not surprised to hear a politician say anything at all. No,” the lawyer replied. Zak then attempted to discredit van der Veen and his defense—he’s Trump’s lawyer, so her job is to discredit him—asking a “when did you stop beating your wife” question,

Throughout the trial you denied that President Trump had a role in inciting the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. You argued first of all that there was no insurrection, but during your closing arguments you seemingly admitted that there was, in fact, an insurrection, using that word, saying that that was not up for debate. What role did the former President play —

The lawyer cut her off and metaphorically slapped her in the face with a mackerel, saying,

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Unethical Quote of the Month: Howard Kurtz

“Brinkley’s book will undoubtedly tarnish the Cronkite legacy. But my admiration for the man is only partly diminished. Perhaps it is too easy to judge him by today’s standards, any more than we should condemn Thomas Jefferson for owning slaves. Perhaps he simply reflected his times, when some journalists and politicians quietly collaborated, when conflicts of interest were routinely tolerated, when a powerful media establishment could sweep its embarrassments under the rug. Cronkite thrived as television came of age, always protecting what we would now call his brand. That’s just the way it was.”

—-CNN good journalism watchdog Howard Kurtz, closing his review of the new Douglas Brinkley biography of Walter Cronkite, which shows that the legendary paragon of broadcast journalism was biased, often dishonest, and frequently conflicted.

No, no, no, no.

And that’s the way it wasn’t…

The “things were different then” excuse won’t fly as a defense of Cronkite, and shame on Howard Kurtz, who is supposed to stand for ethical journalism, for trying to rationalize the obvious conclusion demanded by Brinkley’s biography. That conclusion is that there was no Golden Age of TV journalism, and that rampant liberal bias infected the nightly broadcasts then as now, but we were too trusting and unsophisticated to realize it. Kurtz spends an entire book review extracting information Brinkley uncovered that proves Walter Cronkite’s image as an objective, incorruptible truth-teller was a lie, and then attempts to make the case that we shouldn’t judge him harshly.

Why? Because he was one of Kurtz’s heroes? Perry Mason made me want to be a lawyer, and it wasn’t until I became one that I realized that the fictional defense attorney was the sleaziest criminal lawyer this side “The Practice.” Tarnished heroes are part of growing up, Howard. Don’t pretend that journalistic ethics were different then…journalism schools were teaching objectivity, transparency, fairness, honesty and avoidance of conflicts of interest when Walter was saying “And that’s the way it is!” in a high soprano. Yet Brinkley shows that he… Continue reading

The Dubious Ethics of Andy Rooney

A few words about the trustworthiness of Andy Rooney...and CBS News

“60 Minutes” curmudgeon Andy Rooney makes his cranky farewell this week, and the CBS newsmagazine can be expected to make a big deal over his retirement; after all, Rooney is the network’s last remaining link to the halcyon days of Edward R. Murrow. In his blog, journalist Paul McNamara recalls an encounter with Rooney 20 years ago that provides some insight into the regard a broadcast icon has for the truth, and perhaps the culture of news reporting at CBS.

McNamara, you see, was working at a newspaper that ran a syndicated Rooney column, and one day he discovered that one of the columns Rooney filed included his eye-witness report of something that occurred after he wrote the piece… Rooney had intentionally fabricated a scene he never saw. It was a minor misrepresentation in the context of the column, but a misrepresentation nonetheless. Continue reading