Comment of the Day: “Whining”

(Pssst! John! JOHN! You're not running! )

(Pssst! John! JOHN! You’re not running! )

The resilient and provocative Charles Green offers a challenge to the underlying point in “Whining,” the recent post about efforts by some (but not all) members of the news media to pooh-pooh Republican objections to what they (and I ) regarded as outrageous disrespect and bias displayed by the CNBC panel in the recent Republican debate.

I have a five word rebuttal and bit more afterwards, but for now, here is Charlie’s Comment of the Day on the Ethics Alarms Post, “Whining.” Continue reading

“Whining”

Whining

I said that we would learn a lot about individual political commentators fairness and integrity by observing their reactions to the nakedly anti-GOP bias displayed by the CNBC moderators, especially John Harwood, in the recent Republican debate, and indeed we have. To any objective analyst who isn’t poisoned by partisan prejudice—and no such analysts has any business practicing journalism until they are cured of the malady—the breach of objectivity and professionalism evinced by such antagonistic queries as…

 

  • “Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?” (Harwood to Trump)
  •  “I talked to economic advisers who have served presidents of both parties. They said that you have as chance of cutting taxes that much without increasing the deficit as you would of flying away from that podium by flapping your arms.” (Harwood to Trump)
  • “So what analysis got you to the point where you think this will work?” (Quick to Carson)
  • “You want to bring 70,000 pages to three? Is that using really small type? Is that using really small type? (Quintanilla to Fiorina)

…is obvious, alarming and unacceptable. Those are attacks framed as questions, and the moderators are not supposed to attack the candidates.  Debate questions should be tough; here is one of the first televised debate questions ever from journalist Sander Vanocur to Richatrd Nixon in the initial Nixon-Kennedy debate:

VANOCUR:  Mr. Vice President, since the question of executive leadership is a very important campaign issue, I’d like to follow Mr. Novins’ question. Now, Republican campaign slogans – you’ll see them on signs around the country as you did last week – say it’s experience that counts – that’s over a picture of yourself; sir- implying that you’ve had more governmental executive decision-making  experience than your opponent. Now, in his news conference on August24, President Eisenhower was asked to give one example of a major idea of yours that he adopted. His reply was, and I’m quoting; “If you give me a week I might think of one. I don’t remember.” Now that was a month ago, sir, and the President hasn’t brought it up since, and I’m wondering, sir, if you can clarify which version is correct – the one put out by Republican campaign leaders or the one put out by President Eisenhower?

Tough. Yet there is no sarcasm, or editorializing insults in the question, no mockery, as in the “really small type” crack. Indeed, Vanocur’s question could be from a friendly journalist and Nixon ally (giving him a chance to defuse an embarrassing incident) or a hostile one. That is professional journalism…ah, I had almost forgotten what it looks like! Faced with across the panel hostility, however, the 2016 class of Republican candidates had two choices: accept the status quo, represented by

  • CNN’s Candy Crowley interfering with the last 2012 debate and throwing President Obama a misleading life-line when he was being pressed by Mitt Romney on his participation in the same lie that Hillary’s e-mails exposed regarding the Benghazi attack
  • ABC’s Martha Raddatz allowing Joe Biden to flout debate ettiquette by constantly interrupting Paul Ryan in the 2012 Vice Presidential debate.
  • Anderson Cooper shutting out the one moderate in the Democratic debate, James Webb, several times not asking him questions that the other fur candidates were given chances to answer.*
  • Obvious and documented favoritism toward Barack Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 debate
  • The evisceration of Sarah Palin based on her “lack of experience” in the 2008 campaign, with Obama’s greater lack of experience virtually ignored,
  • The major news organizations, except for Fox, openly lobbying the public for Democratic proposed policy measures, like gun control, amnesty for illegal immigrants, the Affordable Care Act, and more.
  • Statistics showing that progressives outnumber conservatives in the media by more than 4-1.

…or to start objecting to it, as well as the dangerous warping of the democratic process it represents. They have, and it should be taken as a non-partisan boon to the nation.

It is not healthy, and indeed dangerous to have journalists so lopsidedly supporting  one party against  the other, so allied with the government, and so far from objective. The danger, and the fact that CNBC crossed any reasonable limits of bias and unfairness  were immediately acknowledged by such predictable liberals as Juan Williams, Piers Morgan, Tina Brown’s Daily Beast, Bill Maher, and Carl Bernstein, among others.

Another segment of the media, however, those who believe that their occupation gives them the license and obligation to tilt news reporting and public opinion the “right” way, as well as Democrats, who hope to hold on to power with the news media as their front line, hit on a proven strategy from the playground to marginalize and trivialize the issue. Dismiss the complaints as “whining.”

Those who abuse their power to the detriment of others have always used this unethical tactic. Continue reading

10 Ethics Observations On The CNBC Republican Presidential Candidates Debate

cnbc_moderatorsnew

The transcipt is here.

1. Seldom are the  verdicts on a presidential debate as near unanimous as those on last night’s CNBC affair, in which Gov. John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Gov. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen.Ted Cruz, and Sen. Rand Paul took loaded questions from the CNBC panel of Becky Quick, John Harwood, and Carl Quintanilla. The questions and interjections from the moderators were so hostile, so disrespectful, so obviously concocted from a biased perspective, that the criticism came from all sides of the political spectrum.

Mostly the work of the CNBC trio was just unprofessional. The rules seemed arbitrary, the three talked over each other, they neither commanded nor deserved the participant’s cooperation. It was, correctly, called the smoking gun of news media bias, and a terrific honesty, fairness and integrity test for anyone watching. If you did and still say that it didn’t stench of a hostile exercise in media bias, then you lack all three. It was an embarrassment for CNBC and journalism.

2. Ironically, though the moderators were terrible, it arguably was the best debate yet for the Republicans. The hapless trio actually gave Sen. Ted Cruz a chance to show that you tangle with him at your peril, and to display his impressive mind and speaking ability. He said…

“Let me say something at the outset. The questions asked in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match. And you look at the questions — Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues? The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every thought and question from the media was, which of you is more handsome and why? Let me be clear: The men and women on this stage have more ideas, more experience, more common sense, than every participant in the Democratic debate. That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. Nobody believes that the moderators have any intention of voting in a Republican primary. The questions being asked shouldn’t be trying to get people to tear into each other, it should be what are your substantive solutions to people at home.”

Bingo. Cruz’s perfectly delivered reprimand is being sloughed off by many in the press as a repeat of Newt Gingrich’s trick, in the 2012 debates, of routinely beating up on moderators regardless of what they asked. This, in contrast, was fair, accurate, as perfectly delivered as it was impressive. I had followed the debate closely, and I wouldn’t have been able to run down the list of hostile questions like that without checking notes. Cruz is probably the smartest candidate in the race. Too bad he’s a rigid ideologue and a demagogue with the charisma of a chain saw.

3. CNN’s comment on the Cruz slap-down: “Here’s an attack all Republicans can love.” This means, I suppose, that only Republicans care about having a news media that isn’t trying to manipulate national elections. That conclusion should offend all Democrats—unless, of course, it is true. The desire to have an unbiased and competent news media should not be a partisan issue. Continue reading

Q: Why Is CNBC Posting Anti-Vaccination Propaganda?

A: Because its staff is lazy, inattentive and irresponsible.

Weston Price (1870-1948), Quack. His work goes on...

Weston Price (1870-1948), Quack. His work goes on…

The cable business news network posted this press release from the natural foods and nutrition huckster group, The Weston A. Price Foundation.

It isn’t news. It is poison.  The press release makes the false claim that vaccinations spread measles, as well as other diseases. This is standard anti-vaxx hysteria, and it gets children killed.  It is false. “Measles live vaccine doesn’t transmit easily at all,” said Dr. Jane Seward of the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases told NBC, which apparently doesn’t communicate with its subsidiaries. “I don’t think there has ever been a secondary transmission,” she added. “There is no evidence of any transmission of measles virus from a child to household contacts.” As for the Foundation itself:

“The Weston A. Price Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charity founded in 1999 to disseminate the research of nutrition pioneer Dr. Weston Price, whose studies of isolated nonindustrialized peoples established the parameters of human health and determined the optimum characteristics of human diets. Dr. Price’s research demonstrated that humans achieve perfect physical form and perfect health generation after generation only when they consume nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat-soluble activators found exclusively in animal fats….

Yes, it is strange, like Dr. Price’s theories, and not in a benign way. Among the foundation’s other objectives is to show that vaccinations are unnecessary if you eat right, or something: when a  home page prominently displays a link that reads, COD LIVER OIL: Our Most Important Superfood, my eyes tend to gloss over, I file the group under “Nut Balls” and move on.

CNBC posted this promotional piece uncritically and without context, leaving the impression that it was actual news, thus allowing fake news to go to the top of Google searches for gullible readers.  At the bottom of the screen it says “More from CNBC” and not “More from health food hyping anti-science fanatics.Continue reading

Two Deceitful Non-Denial Denials And An Unethically Tardy Whistleblower

Francis

TV shows like “Lie to Me” and “The Mentalist” as well as all the profiling shows like “Criminal Minds” have done a public service by schooling viewers in the tell-tale signs of non-denial denials. Nonetheless, people continue to use them, apparently because they work. Bill Cosby’s lawyers just launched a lulu, responding to the inexplicably re-booted accusations that Cosby was a serial sexual predator in the 70’s. You can’t get more non-denial than this, from lawyer John P. Schmitt on Cosby’s website:

“Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced. The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true..Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment.”

There is no denial of the alleged rapes to be found here. Yes, the accusations are “decades old”: So what?  So are questions about whether Lizzie Borden was guilty.  The fact that the allegation are decades old means Cosby can’t be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations, but they don’t change anything about the seriousness of the accusations against the erstwhile “America’s Dad.”

Discredited? How have they been discredited? Cosby paid a settlement in one of the cases: that generally makes the allegations look credible (See: Paula Jones/Bill Clinton; Michael Jackson). Sure: “The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true,” and it also doesn’t make them false. That Cosby doesn’t intend to “dignify” the matter with further comment is strategy and posturing. It is significant that the lawyer did not say “He didn’t do it.”

——————-

[UPDATE: Ah HA! Today that statement was taken down, with this taking its place, a joint statement from Dolores Troiani, counsel to Andrea Constand, and Schmitt:

‘The statement released by Mr. Cosby’s attorney over the weekend was not intended to refer in any way to Andrea Constand. As previously reported, differences between Mr. Cosby and Ms. Constand were resolved to the mutual satisfaction of Mr. Cosby and Ms. Constand years ago. Neither Mr. Cosby nor Ms. Constand intends to comment further on the matter.”

Translation: “Oops. That settlement with the first of Cosby’s accusers was predicated on neither party impugning or accusing the other once the money was paid, and that “discredited” comment risked getting Bill in even more hot water. Never mind!”]

                                                                                                                                  ——————-

Lawyers aren’t permitted to lie, though. Then again, they aren’t supposed to mislead the public with deceitful non-denials, either.

Then we have CNBC’s response to ex-CNBC reporter Melissa Francis, who followed Jonathan Gruber’s admissions of rigged math to get the Affordable Care Act past “stupid voters” with a relevant anecdote of her own. Francis, now a Fox Business anchor,  claims that the network “silenced” her when she questioned the merits and specifically the misleading numbers for the Affordable Care Act when it was being rammed through the legislative process. She told Fox News that she was called on the carpet by CNBC brass and told to stop, on the grounds that such criticism was “disrespectful to the President.”

A CNBC representative responded: Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: CNBC Financial Analyst Larry Kudlow

We've all been there, Larry. Still sounded awful, though.

The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that.”

CNBC’s financial guru Larry Kudlow, discussing the economic implications of the Japanese earthquake and its aftermatha legitimate topic—while giving an instructive demonstration of how tunnel-vision and focus on one objective above all else can disable an ethics alarm, momentarily, or even permanently.

The quote speaks for itself, but here are a few comments: Continue reading

Unethical Blog Post of the Day

Darren Rovell writes a sports business blog for CNBC, and maybe he was under a deadline, but it’s no excuse. In his blog today, Rovell writes an essay entitled, “Marathon’s Headline Win Is Empty.” His theme: everyone was excited that, for once, an American runner won the New York Marathon. But Rovell throws cold water on that bit of misguided national pride…

“Unfortunately, it’s not as good as it sounds. Meb Keflezighi, who won yesterday in New York, is technically American by virtue of him becoming a citizen in 1998, but the fact that he’s not American-born takes away from the magnitude of the achievement the headline implies.”

It constantly amazes me that after over 200 years proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that an American whose parents came over on the Mayflower is no more American than one who became a citizen yesterday, some people still fail to respect the wonder of this nation, a community of immigrants and the  descendants of immigrants, bound together by ideals and aspirations, not national origin.  Keflezighi has been a U.S. for eleven years, but he’s still not American enough for Rovell.

If anything, the fact that Keflezighi is a naturalized citizen—like Einstein, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, like Charles Steinmetz and Cary Grant, like Samuel Gompers and Madeleine Albright, like Bob Hope and Ayn Rand—gives us more reason to be proud of America, and that our system works, making us stronger, smarter, and faster because we can attract the best and boldest from around the globe.

It’s just a business sports blog,  and I suspect Rovell will soon be getting beaten up in media venues with a lot more visibility than this one. And I suspect, or hope,  that he didn’t think through what he wrote very carefully, and will soon be issuing a “I didn’t mean to offend anyone” apology. Still,  the attitude that his words convey, even if he didn’t intend it, is at the heart of the racism, bigotry, and xenophobia that still warps our political discourse and divides our communities.  The core ethical value being neglected here is respect: respect for fellow citizens, respect for the immigrants who have the determination to become Americans, and respect for what being an American means.

Meb Keflezighi is as American as I am, or Darren Rovell. It was sure great to have an American finally win the New York Marathon.

[Hat tip to James Taranto]