Tag Archives: Dan Rather

Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: “The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: … And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting'”


Arthur in Maine, who has kindly featured me on his radio show and actually given me sufficient time to explain things without being cut off, submitted the following discourse focusing on my embarrassingly slow-to-form realization that all investigative reporting into political matters had to be considered as manipulated to serve some political agenda by the news organization.

I’ll have some observations at the end, but first, here is AIM’s Comment of the Day on Comment Of The Day: ‘“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting…”, And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting:

…Why are any of you – including Jack – surprised? Media is, first and foremost, a BUSINESS. It doesn’t sell news – it provides news as a mechanism for generating advertising (in the case of NPR, underwriting and/or listener) support.

The United States is one of the only so-called free nations that embraces the concept of objective media. In fact, the whole concept started in this nation – with Joseph Pulitzer (recognize the name?). In other words, the concept of objective media is an American conceit.

Pulitzer’s drive towards so-called “objective” media certainly raised standards, but it wasn’t due to the noble idea that newspapers – pretty much the only game in town at his time – should be objective. Pulitzer was the visionary who recognized that the way news was being reported was scaring off the advertisers, and the advertisers were way more important than the folks who plunked down a penny or two to buy a copy at the news stand.

American media at the dawn of the 20th century wasn’t dissimilar to the way it is today – and much like it has ALWAYS been in nations in which the media isn’t state-controlled. It’s rambunctious. It’s partisan. It wears its beliefs on its sleeve – both with regard to what it covers and the way it covers it. Continue reading


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Comment Of The Day: ‘“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting…”, And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting

This comment by Humble Talent, one of several COTD entries he has made lately, has to get up today before the ick that was the Alabama Senate Race subsides, and the comment feels moot—though it would not be.

But first, my epiphany about investigative reporting…

Humble’s comment made me realize something that was right in front of my eyes, and has been for a long time, and yet I never before connected the dots. This is especially galling because it involves distrust of the news media, and as you know, I think about this a lot.

What I only now realize, thanks to Humble Talent,  is that investigative reporting is virtually always partisan or agenda-driven one way or the other. It isn’t the highest form of journalism, as we of the post-Watergate era have been taught to believe. It may be the most sinister.

Journalists can’t investigate everything. They have to choose what to investigate, and when, and those choices are inevitably determined by biases and political agendas. If choices are made, and they have to be—what do we investigate, about who? When do we know we have something worth printing? When do we run it? What will happen if we do?—the choices will reflect biases, unless coins are flipped and lots are drawn.

I never thought about whether the timing of the Roy Moore teen dates stories the Post ran were timed to come out when they did. But Humble makes me think: did the Post bother to look for dirt on Jones? I doubt it. I think an editor said, “This guy Moore is horrible. I bet there’s some scandal out there that can take him down, maybe a sex scandal. Let’s dig.” The Post sees that as a public service—Moore is objectively horrible—but the “investigative reporting”  is essentially opposition research to benefit the Democratic candidate. Then the damning results of the investigation were published when they were deemed to be able to cause the most chaos in the campaign.

Why didn’t this occur to me when I was watching “Spotlight”? We see, in that film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into child abuse in the Boston Catholic Diocese, how the story was held up for months as a mater of tactics and politics. The story almost wasn’t run at all. Now, why did I just assume that it was random chance that…

  • The Harvey Weinstein esposé wasn’t released before the 2016 election?
  • Provocative passages in Barack Obama’s books about “considering” homosexuality and eating dog never were investigated or explored by the mainstream news media during the 2008 campaign?
  • The revelations about Hillary Clinton’s illicit private server were published by the Times 18 months before the election, giving her plenty of time to make them harmless?
  • No major news organization sought to do a Watergate-style investigation of the IRS sabotage of conservative group participation in the 2012 Presidential campaign, although the Obama Justice Department investigation was obviously a sham?

I’m an idiot. Was I the only one this gullible? I knew that the press could have ended JFK’s Presidency almost at will, but was intimidated out of doing so and wasn’t that unhappy about it. I knew the press intentionally kept the Clinton rape allegation from the public, for fear it would affect the impeachment outcome. I knew that CBS and Dan Rather’s investigative reporting about President Bush’s National Guard conduct was  devised and timed (and falsified) to give Kerry the election.

Investigative reporting regarding politics is always politically driven. It has to be.


I am completely dedicated to the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of a free and unencumbered press. A democracy without a free press is doomed. I am also convinced that a free press that abuses its power and influence is as great a threat to democracy as no free press at all.

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting, Democrats, But You Can’t: Continue reading


Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/12/17: Hurricane Reports, And Poor Charles M. Blow Needs A Vacation

Good morning.

1 There is supposedly a controversy regarding the on-the-spot hurricane reports: is it ethical for networks and news stations to place reporters and camera operators in mortal peril by having them scream into a mic while being buffeted by wind, rain and debris?

What’s the controversy? Of course it’s unethical. In addition to sending ridiculously mixed and self-contradictory messages—“I’m standing here in the storm telling citizens in the area that they shouldn’t be in the middle of this storm!”—it is also bad Ethics Chess. This stunt will continue until the first reporter is blown into a wall and sustains permanent brain damage, or is injured by a flying piece of debris that impales her, maims her, or cuts her in half. It is entirely predictable that this will happen eventually, and once it does, reporters will stop doing it. Why not stop this before a the inevitable tragedy occurs?

TV stations do it for ratings, that’s all. It’s great visual programming. It’s not necessary. Half the time, we can’t make out what the reporter is screaming, and what they are screaming is redundant and stating the obvious.

Apparently the first reporter to do this was Dan Rather.


2. What is the mission of a pundit, a talking head, a columnist? It has to be—don’t you think?—to enlighten readers, to convey a constructive, useful analysis of complex issues, to reliably filter facts and controversies through a unique view-point without so completely tainting his or her output with bias that it actively misleads.

Yesterday New York Times columnist Charles Blow issued a column titled “Soul Survival in Trump’s Hell on Earth.” This was the apotheosis of the kinds of columns Blow has been writing almost exclusively now for months; at least I hope it’s that, for I can’t imagine where he goes from here. This column, like the others, is nothing, literally nothing, but a nearly fact free exposition on the theme, “I hate the President. I really do. I do so, so much. I know you do too, and if you don’t, I hate you too. ARRRGGGGHHH!”

The headline isn’t hyperbole; Blow, if he is to believed, really thinks Americans are living in Hell because Donald Trump is President. Not because there is a Great Depression hovering over the land, not because we are embroiled in a Civil War, or the existential threat of a world war, or the daily threat of an  international stand-off igniting into world-wide thermonuclear obliteration, but because a President was elected that offends the ideological and partisan sensitivities of Charles M. Blow.



How can the New York Times continue to justify publishing the weekly primal screams of this pompous, doctrinaire, and now apparently deranged pundit? Exaggerating problems and pronouncing that we are all but doomed is not a service. It is harmful. The only readers who will be persuaded by a column like this are the ones who decide that something has to be done and that it’s time to build that bomb. Moreover, when a pundit reaches the stage that Blow has, where the simple act of a government not agreeing with his views and enacting policies that he does not favor launches him into hysteria, that pundit needs a vacation. Or maybe another career.

What are Blow’s arguments that justify his diagnosis that the United States is now Hell on Earth? Is it that a major party and its supporters have set out deliberately to undermine American institutions by rejecting a national election, seeking to remove an elected President by non-electoral means? Is it that the  international fumblings and ditherings of the previous administration are, as predicted, resulting in increased threats to the United States and the rest of the world? Is it that American journalism and its uniquely free news media, beyond question the app that makes democracy function, has now become, by its own abuses, so completely politicized and untrustworthy that it has become a threat to the nation, rather than its watchdog?

Nah, none of this appears to bother Blow at all; as far as I can detect, he approves of all of it. Here is his Bill of Biased Generalities that add up to Hell on Earth: Continue reading


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From The “Stop Making Me Defend Donald Trump” Files: The President’s Civil War Musings

It took Dan Rather to force me into this quagmire.

As you may have heard by now, the President was being interviewed and the topic of Andrew Jackson came up, the great, flawed, fascinating man who was the first populist President and who reshaped the Presidency and the American political system. Donald Trump quite logically identifies with Jackson, and if he can show half the governing skill and leadership abilities of Old Hickory, the U.S. will be ever in his debt. at one point, Trump said…

As we have seen again and again, if Donald Trump said that the sky was blue, pundits and journalist would erupt with indignation and mockery about the statement, because everyone knows that the sky isn’t blue, it just looks blue. This is the Left and “the resistance” telegraphing their complete abandonment of fairness, good will and proportion regarding the President of the United States. It is transparent, it is intellectually dishonest, and it is now boring and annoying, since it began more than  a year ago. In this case, talking heads who know virtually nothing about Andrew Jackson were screaming on CNN about how “stupid” Trump’s statement was. At The Washington Post,  Aaron Blake wrote in his essay, “Trump’s totally bizarre claim about avoiding the Civil War”:

Historians with more academic experience than Trump have indeed asked this question about the Civil War often… It’s generally assumed that a deal to avert the Civil War would have included concessions to Southern states having to do with their right to own slaves — the central dispute of the Civil War. Is Trump saying he would have been okay with a more partial or gradual phasing out of slavery? Was there really a deal to be cut on that front? Or does he think Jackson, a slave owner himself, would have convinced the South to abandon slavery immediately, somehow?

Ann Althouse nailed this one: if Trump’s question about the Civil War is so “bizarre,” how come historians have asked the question “often”?

The simple and ugly answer is to much of  Left and the news media,  what Trump says is presumptively stupid or sinister, even if others saying the exact same thing would be ruled reasonable and benign. (See: Loyalty Day)

But I am so tired of this game. Until a friend posted an attack on Trump’s statement by Dan Rather, I had decided to let this round pass. After Dan’s ignorant and biased take, I couldn’t stay on the sidelines.

He wrote on Facebook, the only forum regularly available to him because no legitimate news organization would sully its credibility by having a journalist who tried to influence a Presidential election by representing a forged document as authentic, and who still won’t admit that there was anything wrong with that…

I wanted to let this story go. I really did. I don’t want to be distracted from all the important things taking place. Where are we on the Russia investigation again?

But the sheer craziness of this obsession by Donald Trump with Andrew Jackson and the Civil War is a carnival act unlike anything I have ever seen at the White House. And not to let something drop, there is Mr. Trump on Twitter just recently pouring gasoline on the fires of his ignorance.

Never mind that Mr. Trump’s knowledge of American history seems below that of most gradeschoolers. Never mind that in many people’s view, Jackson is not exactly the kind of president, or man, you would want to hold up as an example. And never mind that there is an implicit criticism of arguably our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. (It reminds me of his slam against John McCain and how war heroes aren’t captured. Apparently great presidents don’t wage a war to keep the Union together).

These are the rantings of someone who really should be focused on the job of governing. Should we not conclude that he approaches policy decisions with the same half-baked conspiracies with which he apparently approaches history?

To be President of the United States is to part of the great American story. To not understand that story is to not understand the presidency. Maybe Frederick Douglass can give Mr. Trump some advice. Apparently, he’s “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more.”

This is a post that demonstrates Rather’s ignorance and poor reasoning, not President Trump’s. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership

From The “Double Standard” Files: Obama’s Voter ID Lie

"What? No, I think he looks just fine! He always looks fine!"

“What? No, I think he looks just fine! He always looks fine!”

This will undoubtedly be called a partisan post, and when it is, I will be ticked off. It is not partisan to object to outright lies. It is partisan to ignore and accept lies according to who the liar is. This is the bind the news media has placed itself in, and a brilliant, throbbing example occurred during President Obama’s last press conference.

Discussing his concerns about state voter ID  laws, Obama said,

“We’re the only advanced democracy in the world that makes it harder for people to vote.  It traces directly back to Jim Crow and the legacy of slavery, and it became sort of acceptable to restrict the franchise. . . . we are the world’s oldest continuous democracy, and yet we systematically put up barriers and make it as hard as possible for our citizens to vote….This whole notion of election-voting fraud, this is something that has constantly been disproved. This is fake news.”

Wait, by “this is fake news,” was the President really  announcing that what he just said was fiction? That would be very impressive, and a great new standard: imagine if the news media did that, and flagged their misleading stories!  But I’m pretty sure that he was trying to make us believe what isn’t true, and a falsehood that supports the phony narrative that efforts to ensure the integrity of elections are really racist plots. Explicates John Fund:

“All industrialized democracies — and most that are not — require voters to prove their identity before voting. Britain was a holdout, but last month it announced that persistent examples of voter fraud will require officials to see passports or other documentation from voters in areas prone to corruption…In 2012, I attended a conference in Washington, D.C., of election officials from more than 60 countries; they convened there to observe the U.S. presidential election. Most were astonished that so many U.S. states don’t require voter ID…. [O]ur neighbors require voter ID. Canada adopted voter-ID requirements in 2007 and saw them reaffirmed in 2010; they have worked smoothly since, with almost no complaints. Mexico’s “Credencial para Votar” has a hologram, a photo, and other information embedded in it, and it is impossible to effectively tamper with it. …Britain is painfully learning that it too must take steps to restore confidence in its elections. Sir Eric Pickles, a former Conservative cabinet minister, warned earlier this year, in a government-commissioned report titled “Securing the Ballot,” that voter fraud had been allowed to fester in Muslim communities because of “politically correct over-sensitivities about ethnicity and religion.” Sir Eric said that the authorities were in a “state of denial” and were “turning a blind eye” to fraud cases. Last month, Theresa May’s government responded to the problem. It announced that “endemic corruption” meant that voters in certain areas will now have to show photo identification. The government may even require people to prove their UK citizenship before granting them the right to vote.”

Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, Rights, U.S. Society

As Ethics Corrupters Run Amuck, Ethics Alarms Presents “Ethics Corrupter Weekend”! Part I: “Truth” Is False


“Truth” is in theaters now, and reportedly bombing. As soon as I learned about the source of the film (disgraced ex-CBC producer Mary Mapes’ memoir, “Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power”) and its plot, I resolved not to watch it, as I would just end up walking out of it. Nonetheless, the fact that Robert Redford is connected with the project is profoundly disappointing. Redford is the ultimate Hollywood liberal, but his films have often been about ethics, and I regard him, or perhaps past tense is more appropriate, as having principles and integrity. True: actors need not agree with or endorse their roles or the projects of others, but Redford is unusual: he lends credibility to any project he allows to carry his name.

Connecting his name to “Truth” is a betrayal. The film makes martyrs of Mapes and Dan Rather, who attempted to tilt the 2004 election by smearing George Bush, without evidence, on “60 Minutes.” Not only was this a political hit job by biased journalists, it was one tainted by intentionally manufactured evidence. Mapes and Rather presented a forged document alleging that Bush went AWOL during his Texas Air National Guard service in the early 1970s. It was all the pair had that went beyond hearsay to make the allegation, and after the document was decisively shown to be a forgery (its font wasn’t available on the typewriter that had to have been used to make the original document.) Once the forgery was discovered by an enterprising blogger and confirmed by multiple document specialists. Rather and Mapes embarked on a rationalization orgy. Rather, to his undying shame, repeated his defenders’ argument that the forgery as “fake but accurate,” and does to this day, in essence rejecting journalism ethics wholesale. So determined was he to prove what he believed to be true but couldn’t prove fairly or ethically that he cheated, playing dishonest political operative to achieve worthy partisan goals “by any means necessary.”

Bias makes us stupid, and in this case, bias made Dan Rather corrupt.

AND stupid. Continue reading


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Ethics Hero: CBS’ Major Garrett

major_garrettDuring President Obama‘s Iran deal press conference,  CBS’ Major Garrett broke ranks with his softball lobbing colleagues  by asking, “Why you are content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?”

President Obama flared, reprimanding the reporter by snarling, “That’s nonsense, and you should know better.”

Garret was immediately criticized for being disrespectful. CNN’s Dana Bash criticized her colleague,  opining that “There’s a fine line between asking a tough question and maybe crossing that line a little bit and being disrespectful, and I think that happened here.” Bill Maher ran to fetch the typical weapon of last (first?) resort employed by Obama apologists since January, 2009: the race card. “Major Garrett is a huge asshole,” he tweeted.  “If U wanna “strike a nerve” with POTUS, why not just scream the N word? That should get his attention.” Garrett has been unapologetic.

No doubt: it was a hostile question. A decade or more ago, I might have thought it crossed a line. But the issue Garrett raised was an important and obvious one in the context of the President once again cockily taking a victory lap over a dubious achievement, and for this citizen, at least, it gave me hope that the mainstream media’s days of serving as a virtual Pravda to a leader’s every move might be slowly coming to an end. The media’s deference to this President has been disgraceful and has undermined our democracy, public discourse, trust in the press  and the right to know what our government is doing. CBS’s Steve Kroft actually admiited—proudly!—that his “60 Minutes” was a favored venue for Obama because he knew that he would be treated with kid gloves. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Leadership