Chris Wallace Is Sincere And Deluded, But To Be Fair, It’s Understandable.

“I believe President Trump is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history,” Fox anchor Chis Wallace told the audience at an event honoring the First Amendment. “The president’s attacks have done some damage..A Freedom Forum Institute poll this year found 29 percent of Americans think the First Amendment goes ‘too far.’ And 77 percent say ‘fake news’ is a serious threat to our democracy,” Wallace continued.

“Ours is a great profession — maybe the best way to make a living anyone ever came up with. Think of it. We are paid to tell the truth—to cut through all the spin—all the distractions — and tell the American people what is really going on.”

Chris Wallace is a smart guy; I knew him a little when I was a sophomore and he was a senior in the same residential House in college. He’s also a journalist with integrity, the antithesis of stereotypes and smears that are routinely used to delegitimize Fox News reporting, often the only broadcast news source to counter the Left’s propaganda.  It would be weird if Wallace didn’t believe the myth about journalism, given his pedigree (icon Mike Wallace was Chris’s father) and the fact that he was immersed in his father’s world virtually from birth.

So I sympathize, but what an obviously ridiculous statement to make in public, literally from beginning to end! This might be the best example of how “Bias makes you stupid” of all time; I can’t think of a better one. Imagine: Wallace asserts one false position after another, then says “We are paid to tell the truth.” He would be lying, except I’m sure he believes it all. Chris, I’m sure, does try to tell the truth. He is apparently incapable of telling the truth about his friends and colleagues, because he is incapable of seeing it.

Let’s see:

We all have a right to do many terrible, unfair, wrongful and harmful things. People have a right to have children they can’t take care of, for example. They have a right to be unfaithful to their spouses, to misrepresent their affections to partners who think they are loved. Parents have a right to warp the values and education of their children. People have a right to accept jobs that they are unqualified to do well; they have a right not to retire long after they know they have become incompetent. We have a right to be biased, to be prejudiced, and to hate irrationally. We have a right to vote, even if we vote ignorantly and without meeting our duty to be informed citizens. The issue in which this rationalization was raised on Ethics Alarms was a news story about a grandmother who killed her cat and kittens to punish her grandchildren. Yes, she had a right to kill them, for they were her property. A billionaire could buy a great work of art and destroy it on a whim, too. Gratuitous, wanton or cruel destruction of property that others derive joy or practical use from, however, is still unethical.

Yes, we often have a right to do something wrong. Using rights that way, however, is to abuse them.

Wallace is really and truly saying that criticizing how a right is exercised poses a threat to the existence of that right. This is now a reflex defense by journalists, which is itself, ironically, a tactic designed to suppress speech. They want to criticize those they oppose, but criticizing the manner in which they frequently do it—incompetently, recklessly, dishonesty and with bias—is deemed an attack on their right to do it. Chris Wallace is smart enough to understand the distinction, or was, before his bias softened his brain. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/2/2018: Bad Neighbors And Bad Journalism

Good Morning…

1. Ah, now THAT’S the ol’ Spirit of 1776!  In a subdivision near Sterling Heights in Chesterfield, Michigan,  a resident sent an anonymous letter to other residents, threatening  to take dire measures against them if they set off fireworks after 9 PM  this week. Here’s the letter…

Yikes.

I’m presuming that the real spirit of 1776 still breathes deeply in this nation, and that the reaction of the recipients of that letter will be to make certain that the noisiest fireworks possible are exploding every second during the time they are permitted to be by law, from the start of the week to the end. The neighbor is a coward, a jerk and a bully, and his bluff must be called as a matter of justice and honor. (Pointer: HLN)

2. Nah, the mainstream news media isn’t biased! In an absolutely correct and justified editorial note, Fox News’ Chris Wallace excoriated media outlets on “Fox News Sunday” for attempting to connect President Donald Trump to the newsroom shooting at Capital Gazette in Maryland. (This will, of course, be called an example of Fox News pro-Trump toadying by those same media outlets.) This was indeed one of the most transparent recent episodes of fake news peddling by CNN, Reuters and others in the mainstream media, who worked hard to make the case that the killer of five was motivated by the President’s repeated accusation that the media is “the enemy of the people.” We now know that the shooter swore that he would kill the Capital Gazette writer whom he targeted in the attack years ago, when everyone assumed that Hillary was going to be the next President. Continue reading

Debate Ethics: Trump’s “Breathtaking Repudiation Of American Democracy”

debate3

Substance, of course, is officially irrelevant to the 2016 Presidential election. This is a bitter “be careful what you wish for” realization for Ethics Alarms and its author, as I have long argued that leaders’ values and character are more important and should be given more weight in any choice of candidates than their political affiliations or official policy positions. I did not foresee  a race in which both candidates have definitively proven that they are unfit for office and corrupt beyond repair or redemption, and one of those candidates is so unfit that even the epic dishonesty and democracy-corroding conduct of his opponent cannot begin to justify a vote for him by anyone with the sense of a bivalve mollusk.

Thus, once again as in the first two debates, the leading story coming out of last night’s snark-fest relates to character, not substance. In this case, it doesn’t even relate to practical reality. Donald Trump was asked by debate moderator Chris Wallace,

Your running mate Governor Pence pledged on Sunday that he and you, his words, will absolutely accept the result of this election. Today your daughter Ivanka said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight, do you make the same commitment that you’ll absolutely accept the result of the election?

..and after talking around the question interminable, as usual, Trump finally answered,

What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?

Hillary Clinton immediately pronounced the answer “horrifying,” and her assessment is currently being echoed on editorial pages and by pundits and analysts as if Trump announced that he was raising an army of NRA members to take the White House by force. Gasped the Washington Post this morning, in an editorial titled, “Trump’s Breathtaking Repudiation of American Democracy,” “Respecting the will of the voters has since the end of the Civil War allowed for a peaceful transition of power that has made this country the envy of the world….[Clinton’s flaws] fade to the status of trivia in the face of an opponent who will not accept the basic rules of American democracy.”The New York Times, in its editorial titled “Donald Trump’s Contempt for Democracy,” pontificated,

Mr. Trump’s meltdown in the closing weeks could be dismissed as a sore loser’s bizarre attempt at rationalizing his likely defeat. But his trashing of the democratic process, in service of his own ego, risks lasting damage to the country, and politicians of both parties should recoil from him and his cynical example.

It in no way excuses Donald Trump to take notice of the “breathtaking” dishonesty here.

Continue reading

Hillary’s New Tactic: When Caught Lying, Resort To Gibberish

Yesterday in Washington, D.C., Hillary Clinton took questions at a meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She was asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker to explain her jaw-dropping lie on Fox News Sunday a week ago, when she claimed  that FBI Director James B. Comey had said all of her statements had been “truthful,” when anyone who heard Comey’s public statement or Congressional testimony could see that he actually stated that her public statements—for more than a year—were not true. Incredibly, Clinton had no coherent or credible answer for this, though she had to know—didn’t she?—that the question would be asked.

Her answer began with this:

“I may have short-circuited it, and for that I will try to clarify.”

On “The Honeymooners,” Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) used to stutter out, when confronted with his own whopper or otherwise trapped, “Huminahuminahumina…” “Short-circuited” is as meaningful as that. It’s gibberish, but just as obviously means “you caught me lying through my teeth, and I don’t have a good explanation.” Ralph, however, was a humble, none-too-bright bus driver, and not running for President, so the standards in his case can be relaxed a bit.

(Please also note Clinton’s equivocal “might.” )

Ralph always followed  “huminahuminahumina…” with facial expressions and body language showing silent humiliation, and then an abject apology. Hillary, being Hillary, just started lying again. The AP fact-checked her response, and determined that she had trotted out the same shifting, mendacious assertions we have heard so many time before. Concluded the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, 

Er, what? What Clinton appears to be saying is that Comey said that everything she said to the FBI was truthful (he did) and since she said publicly exactly what she said to the FBI, therefore everything she said was truthful.

Oh, so that’s what “short-circuited” means! Continue reading

Jumbo, Ethics Dunce, Kaboom And Unethical Quote Of The Month: Hillary’s Jaw-Dropping Lie To Chris Wallace

hillary and Wallace

“Director Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the emails.”

—-Hillary Clinton to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, asserting that what was demonstrably false was true, regarding a public statement by Comey that can be Googled and watched on YouTube instantly.

My reaction when I saw that: KABOOM! The top of my head blew right off, bounced off the ceiling and knocked over the lamp. Wallace asked Clinton directly about what she had been saying to the public about her e-mails since May of 2015: that she did nothing wrong, that her private, secret e-mail server was approved by the State Department, that she never received or sent a classified e-mail…okay, that didn’t work, that she never knowingly sent a classified e-mail…wait, wait, that she never sent or received an  e-mail that was marked classified. Comey, in his televised, live statement announcing his decision not to recommend prosecution for Clinton, directly contradicted her.

In his careful statement Comey said,

“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.,,,seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. …There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation…even if information is not marked ‘classified’ in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.”

There is no way that an individual of normal facility with the English language can listen to or read that statement and conclude that Comey was saying that Hillary’s answers to questions about the e-mails to the American public and the news media–for over a year!–were truthful, as in “full of truth.” A technical argument can be made, if one wishes, that  Comey didn’t say that Clinton lied, because maybe she is an idiot and incompetent, and didn’t know or understand what “any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position” should have known and understood, leading to her factually false (and constantly evolving as more facts where uncovered) explanations over months and months. Continue reading

Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Authentic Frontier Gibberish In Defense Of Hillary

Gabby Johnson for head of the DNC!

Gabby Johnson for head of the DNC!

I am going to add “authentic frontier gibberish” (or AFG ) to the Ethics Alarms glossary of special terms. It comes, of course, from a memorable moment in “Blazing Saddles,” but on Ethics Alarms it is usually used to describe either intentional or incompetent blather from politicians or others attempting to confuse the public, duck a question, or mislead everyone. It is deliberate communication malpractice, with the motive of not communicating but pretending to.

Seldom will you encounter a more ringing example of AFG than the foregoing. Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a master at AFG,  was asked by Fox News’ Chris Wallace why she called the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s possible national security violations in her handling of official e-mails “ludicrous.”

Here was her response… Continue reading

Observations On The Fox GOP Candidates Debate in Detroit

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The transcript is here.

1. I’m in Atlanta, teaching ethics to lawyers, and watching some shows I seldom get to see. I believe I have discovered why so many citizens are ill-informed, have warped priorities, are entranced by a vulgar reality TV star, and appear not to comprehend that electing a President isn’t something that should be used as the means to express free-floating frustration. This morning I made the excuse of tuning into “Good Morning America!,” the top rated morning show,and watched in disbelief as the happy, giggly crew “covered” the debate by briefly highlighting Donald’s defense of his penis and the silly exchange about yoga Romney’s thorough dismantling of Trump didn’t make the cut, but the big news, according to ABC, was that a GMA cast member was announced as new “Dancing With The Stars” contestant. We were treated to a 10 minute segment including her mother, her DWTS partner, and a montage of the career of a typical TV weather girl.  The news that Hillary Clinton’s tech guy who set up her server and who had used the 5th Amendment to avoid answering the FBI’s questions was granted immunity yesterday by the Justice Department wasn’t anywhere to be found. Hey, the gang on GMA don’t seem to think who gets to run for President matters, why should anyone else? Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), what isn’t reported has as much effect on distorting Americans’ views, beliefs and civic conduct as much as what is.

But isn’t it exciting that Ginger is going to get to wear those skimpy dance outfits, and so soon after having her baby?

2. Back to Donald’s penis: I was tempted to re-post this in it’s entirety. I correctly forecasted that a President Trump would transform the culture and leave us with a “nation of assholes,” but I did nor foresee that he would be able to substantially accomplish his mission by just running.  In a Presidential debate, a candidate discusses his penis size and the audience hoots delightedly like Bill Maher’s crowd when he says “fuck you.” A civilized U.S. worthy of international respect would regard a candidate who stooped to such crudeness and idiocy as having eliminated himself from consideration.

3. Marco Rubio showed that Trump’s reliance on rationalizations is communicable. Asked why he spent last week name calling and suggesting that Trump wet his pants, after once vowing that he wouldn’t stoop to personal attacks,  Rubio answered that the media gives “an incredible amount of coverage” to Trump’s attacks—Oh. so it’s OK because it works. How big is your penis, Marco?– and Trump “deserves” to be attacked the same way. Great: the ends justify the means, and “he had it coming.” Later, Rubio objects to Trump calling him a “little Marco” instead of giving a substantive answer to a plocy question. Yes, ad hominen attacks are the hallmark of weak thinkers, bullies and fools. Explain to us again why you started using them, Senator?

4. Nonetheless, Trump’s constant use of “little Marco” should be the last strawfor any parent who doesn’t want to raise a bully or have a child tormented by one. Trump is validating bullying behavior, at a high level. Here, I’ll link to “A Nation of Assholes” again. Insufferable conservative bloggers and pundits who know how bad Trump is but who are actively rooting for him to destroy the Republican party as retribution—Why don’t they just root for a dirty bomb to take out the Capitol?— write about how the “elites” just don’t understand:

“To the establishment, this breakdown looks like chaos. It looks like savagery. It looks like a man with a flamethrowing guitar playing death metal going a hundred miles an hour down Fury Road. But to the American people, it looks like democracy.”

Well, that’s because the “elites'” contempt for people who applaud bullies, torture and penis-boasting is absolutely justified, and if the American people think electing someone like Trump is democracy, then it proves that they understand neither democracy nor their obligations as citizens. There is nothing noble, or admirable, or justifiable about someone supporting Donald Trump. Writes another right-wing apologist for Trump supporters (the pompous conservative gang are all saying the same thing—they are interchangeable):

“The messenger doubtless is deeply flawed. Trump is no Washington, that’s for sure. Donald Trump would not have been my first choice as a GOP nominee. He wouldn’t have been my 100th choice. But if the counter-revolutionaries decide they want Trump as the nominee, I will not oppose them. And I will hope that the counter-revolution has now become too big for one deeply and profoundly flawed man to derail.”

What an irresponsible statement. And by the way, if Trump would be your 10,000th choice, your respect for ethical values and responsible leadership is woefully insufficient. The Left ridicules Trump, and the Right roots for him to wreck the country. The Left is correct, and the Right is disgracing itself while showing the deep, deep cynicism and ugliness within.

4. Trump was, of course, asked if the tape of his off-the-record discussion with the New York Times, in which he supposedly expressed a willingness to be flexible on his immigration stance, should be released, and he says he won’t authorize it. This is identical to Hillary Clinton refusing to release her  Goldman Sachs  speeches. If the tape wouldn’t contradict what he has said in public, there is no reason not to release it.  Trump’s angry zombie supporters will excuse this just as Hillary’s corrupt zombie supporters will ignore the fact that she says what any given audience wants to hear.

When I hear the complaint that politicians have contempt for ordinary Americans, I am tempted to say, “And they have earned every bit of it.” Continue reading