Ethics Dunce: Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas)

That's Rep. Stockman on the right, naturally...

That’s Rep. Stockman on the right, naturally…

I told you the rodeo clown mess was an Ethics Train Wreck!

Heck, it seems like everything is an Ethics Train Wreck or getting close to one these days…the NSA, Egypt, San Diego, the New York Yankees, life…

I need a vacation.

Now Texas Republican rep Steve Stockman has come aboard by making the obnoxious, simple-minded and inherently offensive gesture of inviting the unfairly banned clown to perform his classy act at a Texas rodeo. Undignified, unprofessional, cheap, nasty, and stupid…I’m sure I left out some equally accurate descriptors. This is like George Zimmerman in miniature. Is it really so hard to understand that protesting unfair treatment of someone need not, and in some cases should not, be accompanied by affirmative endorsement…and that’s what the invitation by Stockman is. Is he really so dense that he doesn’t realize that? Or is he really such a hyper-partisan, unstatesmanlike boor that he thinks it’s responsible and appropriate for a member of Congress to express his approval of an entertainer who called the President of the U.S. a clown and invited a crowd to cheer at his metaphorical abuse by a bull, some of whom were undoubtedly motivated by bigotry?

I really don’t care. Stockman’s stunt is ethically objectionable on a grand scale, and either he, the House, Republicans, or preferably all three owe President Obama an apology. One would think a Congressman would understand that there are different standards for the high elected officials responsible for our laws and rodeo clowns. But toward the bottom of the ethical and intellectual barrel we call the Republican Party (God, I certainly hope it’s toward the bottom!), this is apparently untrue.

Rep. Stockman is more clown than statesman.


Facts: Washington Post

Graphic: Google+

Unethical Endorsement of the Month: Former Rep. Duke Cunningham

It's not just Duke...this guy's in Newt's corner too!

Duke Cunningham’s endorsement of Newt Gingrich’s presidential candidacy is like the kiss of death.

Here is what the former California Republican Congressman, currently in federal prison for multiple convictions on bribery, corruption and tax evasion charges, sent his former House Speaker as Newt struggled to keep his candidacy thriving while being battered by critics from all ends of the political spectrum:

“Newt, a voice out of the past. Down but not out and still fighting. First I do not want anything from you but have been watching the debates. I have 80% of inmates that would vote for you. They might not be able to but their extended families will.”

In a word—unbelievable. If Cunningham is trying to sink Gingrich, the endorsement of a dishonest pol like him, along with the news that Newt’s a penitentiary favorite, is an excellent, if under-handed and deceitful, way to do it. If Cunningham wants to help Gingrich, he could hardly be more incompetent and reckless about it. Has he never heard of cognitive dissonance? When someone most people regard as untrustworthy and dishonest endorses a candidate, that candidate will be pulled down closer to the endorser’s low level of esteem.

A few more endorsements like this—Rev. Wright and Bernie Madoff, maybe?—and that would be the end of Gingrich for President. Whatever Cunningham’s endorsement is—deluded, diabolical or stupid, it’s an unethical endorsement from an unethical man, because the endorsement of someone like Cunningham does the opposite of what endorsements are supposed to do.

TV Payola and the Shameless Alison Rhodes

" 'Conflict of interest?' What's that?"

She’s not the only one, apparently. But consumer product reviewer Alison Rhodes (“The Safety Mom”), a frequent guest on national, syndicated and local TV shows, not only reviews products whose manufacturers have paid her to mention them, she is unapologetic about it.

Today’s Washington Post reveals that Rhodes, who can be seen on such shows as “Regis and Kelly”, “Today” and “Good Morning America!” as well as local news outlets around the country, raved on the air about a home electronic monitor and a backpack with a built-in alarm known as the iSafe bag without telling either viewers or producers that she had accepted payola from their makers. Rhodes, however, shrugs off the issue. She tells the Post that she doesn’t see any problem, because “I’m not going to take on any engagement with a client unless I believe in their product.”  Amazing. Meanwhile, the news programs the Post interviewed claim that they had no inkling that Rhodes was plugging the product of a client.

This brazen deception of the public is inexcusable, but the shamelessness—or ignorance— of Rhodes and the negligence of those who give her exposure are worse. Continue reading

The Deceitful, Illogical, Unethical Disclaimer

Don't be fooled by Voldemort's disclaimer!

I once worked for a company that was specifically targeted by an industry group for coordinated attacks and anti-competitive tactics. We obtained a copy of the agenda for the planning meeting for this onslaught, and the bullet points looked like part of a hypothetical in an anti-trust class law school exam. This was the most blatant collusion in restraint of trade imaginable. But the  lawyers for the group apparently thought all could be made benign and legal by a disclaimer on every agenda copy that  said, in effect, “Don’t pay any attention to what this agenda says—trust us, it’s all fair and legal.” The disclaimer stated that the organization fully supported and followed all provisions of U.S. anti-trust statutes, and would never, ever do anything to violate them. This is roughly the equivalent of a mugger telling his victim that he is non-violent while he’s punching him in the face.

I am reminded of that agenda when I see commercials for new drugs, which show healthy, happy, beautiful models frolicking with their families or lovers in idyllic settings while the announcer, usually at breakneck speed, warns that the drug may cause violent flatulence, boils, locusts, insanity, cannibalism and excruciating death. I was reminded of the agenda again when I learned of the latest gambit by PublishAmerica, which earlier this year got in trouble with “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling by soliciting money from authors by promising to bring their works to her attention: Continue reading

Dear ESPN: I Know She’s Hot, But Fire Erin Andrews

…or at least suspend her. Show us that a male-dominated sports network can have a modicum of journalistic ethics, and won’t behave like a drooling traffic cop giving a buxom babe a pass for running a red light because she bats her eyes and flashes some cleavage.

You did the right thing in early January, when one of your broadcasters abused a female colleague in a sexist manner; some would say—certainly the fired Ron Franklin—that you reacted a little precipitously, but you are clearly taking a strong stand against gender bias in the workplace, and that’s commendable. Still, don’t you know that what your pin-up, “Dancing With the Stars” reporter Andrews did was far worse? Continue reading

Murchowski’s Unethical Zombie Endorsement

Former Senator Ted Stevens is dead, the victim of an August plane crash. Yet there he is on TV, enthusiastically endorsing defeated Republican Senator Lisa Murchowski as she runs as a write-in candidate against Joe Miller, the man who beat her in the primary for the GOP nomination.

I don’t care that Ted Stevens taped an endorsement of Murchowski’s primary candidacy before he died, and it doesn’t matter that Stevens’ family approved the use of the zombie endorsement now. Murchowski’s use of the video is doubly unethical. It is misleading and dishonest, because it implies that Stevens endorsed the Senator for her write-in campaign…impossible, because he died before she lost the primary. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Trio: CREW, Coercion and Condiments

The C Street Horror…Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington appears to have jumped the rails in its hysterical protest of President Obama appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast, a venerable if odd event that dates from the Eisenhower administration. Some of CREW’s objections are that the event’s organizers, a group with the admittedly sinister-sounding name “The Family,” preaches “an unconventional brand of Christianity,” (As does Rev. Wright. So what?) lacks transparency (Just like the Obama administration of late. This is a matter worth investigating, exposing and reforming, but if the President has to boycott organizations based on a lack of transparency, he’ll be living on the streets), has been “linked” to unsavory causes (Translation: CREW doesn’t like the group’s politics), and that the C Street Christian home the group maintains in Washington has housed a lot of politicians with ethical problems, like Gov. Mark Sanford and Sen John Ensign. That’s a bizarre complaint, don’t you think? Continue reading

Tiger Woods Ethics, Part I: Betrayal’s Not for Heroes

I wasn’t planning on commenting on the Tiger Woods soap opera. Its ethical lessons seemed obvious, and merely xeroxed themes that I have, in the eyes of some, thumped to death. I do feel that the apparent glee with which some in the sports media have attacked Woods for revealing his true character is damning…of them. Golf’s Golden Child finally outed himself as a phony “good guy” and a classic case of the prodigy who won’t or can’t grow up, a man who has been carrying on multiple adulterous affairs while using his bottomless checkbook to cover his tracks. It seems that many reporters have long known that Tiger’s public image was a fraud, and  had chafed over the adulation heaped on him as they witnessed the golfer being mean, petty and boorish, often to them. Now these journalists feel it is “safe” to skewer Woods, and are doing so with gusto. Cowards. They were parties to a mass public deception, and their duty was to let us know Tiger was playing us for suckers when they knew it, not when his lies became National Enquirer headlines.

As for Tiger’s own conduct, however, I presumed most could see the ethics issues clearly. Then the apologists and rationalizers started writing their columns. Continue reading