From The Ethics Alarms “Doing The Right Thing For The Wrong Reason” Files: The President Snubs The White House Correspondents Dinner

trump-tweet-dinner

President Donald Trump has declined the invitation to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, becoming the first President to skip it since Ronald Reagan in 1981, who missed the dinner while recovering from an assassination attempt but still delivered remarks over the phone.

Good.

Once, before it was televised, over-publicized, and hyped, before Presidents started hiring comedy writers to give them professional qualify stand-up material, and especially before the last eight years of an event that looked like the President was fraternizing with complacent and sycophantic supporters and cronies—which he was— the dinner served the purpose of sending a salutary message that the relationship between the press and the President in power was adversarial but not personal, and that like all professionals, the adversaries could disagree intensely on important issues and have a congenial beer together later. It had become a classic example of the appearance of impropriety, however, going hand and in hand with Joe Biden’s “Super-Soaker” party for journalists that I examined in 2010.

Let me take you down on a stroll down Memory Lane. After Wolf Blitzer, Ed Henry and others appeared on You-Tube giggling and playing games with Vice President Biden, Rahm Emanuel and other Obama administration officials at the Biden-hosted party, Glenn Greenwald wrote,

I personally don’t think that these types of interactions ‘violate journalistic ethics,’ because I don’t think such a thing exists for them.  Rather, all of this just helpfully reveals what our nation’s leading “journalists” really are:  desperate worshipers of political power who are far more eager to be part of it and to serve it than to act as adversarial checks against it — and who, in fact, are Royal Court Spokespeople regardless of which monarch is ruling.  That’s why they’re invited into the heart of Versailles to frolic with the King’s most trusted aides:  it’s their reward for loyal service as Court courtiers.”

To which I added,

It’s not very complicated: if the public believes that journalists are inclined to be favorable toward government officials because they like them, get benefits from them, and seek their approval, then they cannot trust the objectivity of the news. The Biden party proves that some prominent journalists either don’t understand this, or don’t care.

Now, after 8 years,  we know: they don’t care. Their relentless partisan bias has become transparent, and journalists, as well as the beneficiaries of their bias, are content to continue denying it, pointing to the solid and fair reporting mixed in with the deceptive and incompetent stories. The White House Correspondents Dinner has been both the product of an illicit relationship between the White House and the press, and proof of it. To bolster the public’s trust, to avoid conflicts of interests and to reduce the appearance of impropriety, Presidents, Vice-Presidents and high government officials should not participate in this event or others like them—OR super-soaker parties at the VP’s mansion. Continue reading

Triple Crown Ethics: New York Racing Gets An Integrity Check

affirmed.1The best example of the ethical problem with the Star Syndrome, the expedient and destructive compromise organizations make to allow a high-level performer break rules and indulge in conduct that would not be tolerated in other employees, that I have seen in a long time involves…a horse.

California Chrome has won the first two races in the Triple Crown, with only the Belmont Stakes remaining. Horse racing hasn’t had a Triple Crown winner in decades, and has suffered as a result; everyone is rooting for its latest star to finally achieve the heights last reached by Affirmed in 1978. But CC used a nasal strip in his last six races, all victories, and while the devices, which aid breathing, are allowed by the racing rules of all states but one, New York, home of the Belmont, is the one. The owners of the horse say they may not run him if he isn’t allowed to use the strip (they are almost certainly bluffing, but its a good bluff); a request for an exception is pending.

The ethics here is simple as pie. If its a valid rule, then no exception should be made just because the horse in question is on the verge of making history. If it was an arbitrary rule, it should have been eliminated before now.  If the stewards allow California Chrome to use the strip because, well, he’s a big shot and it will be a shot in the arm for racing, but then go back to prohibiting ordinary horses to use it, that will be an outright rejection of fairness and integrity (not that this will be news flash for racing critics.).

If the rule was a good one in the first place, then it should apply to California Chrome. Waiving it just for him is favoritism, and unethical.

That, however, is exactly what will happen. Watch.

 

KABOOM! Delta Sacrifices 50 Passengers To College Basketball

Kaboom.

Kaboom.

Once again, it’s head exploding time at Ethics Alarms. If you had asked me if an airline could do this, I would have answered “I hope not.” If you had asked me if an airline would do this, I would have answered, “Never!” But an airline did do this, and apparently isn’t even sorry about it.

KABOOM!

When maintenance issues grounded the Sunday afternoon Delta aircraft flight scheduled to carry the University of Florida men’s basketball team from Gainesville to Storrs, Connecticut for a 7 pm (E.S.T.) Monday game against the University of Connecticut, Delta canceled Delta Connection flight 5059 to  Atlanta, kicked its 50 passengers off the flight without telling them why, and converted their flight into a charter to Connecticut so the Gators wouldn’t be inconvenienced. It was reported that the bumped passengers were deceitfully told that there were mechanical problems, but never let on to the fact that the problems related to a different flight. Then, once they had been told their flight was cancelled, some passengers saw what had been their plane being boarded by some very tall young men. Continue reading

Workplace Ethics: 62 Things That Are Legal, But 22 Of Them Are Unethical

"Oh, sure, he's hell to work for, but he never breaks any laws, so you'll be fine."

“Oh, sure, he’s hell to work for, but he never breaks any laws, so you’ll be fine.”

I have been remiss in not adding the terrific blog Evil HR Lady to the Ethics Alarms links, and will finally do so as soon as I post this entry. No profession deal s with ethical nuances and dilemmas more frequently than human resources professionals, and they can be very difficult, even gut-wrenching. In a recent post, EHRL searched through the archives of questions she has answered over the past years, and compiled an eye-opening list, especially for non-lawyers, of the conduct employers could engage in legally, which is to say, get away with and not be successfully sued, to employees, together with some questionable kinds of conduct that are legal for employees to do to each other.

She listed 62 of them, many of which are reasonable ( it’s okay to fire an employee for “being a jerk”) and some are obvious, or should be;  it is legal to quote the Bible in the office, for example. What is legal is not always good, fair, or right, however, and I perused the list with an eye out for legal workplace conduct that was legal but still unethical. About a third of the types of conduct on the Evil HR Lady’s list made mine. What follows is the sub-list of the 62 things it is legal to do at work, the 22 things it may be legal to do at work, but which are still unethical. The reasons for my unethical verdict follow Evil HR Lady’s items.

Here’s the list of the unethical 22 workplace practices: Continue reading

The Sanford Bishop Saga: Pondering the Ethical Implications of Another Congressional Black Caucus Scholarship Cheat

At this point, anyone who is surprised to learn that a member of the Congressional Black Caucus has been caught violating basic principles of ethics has not been paying attention. The Caucus has systematically corrupted itself by excusing blatant misconduct by its members for so long, reasoning—wrongly—that it is more important for black members of Congress to show loyalty and solidarity with their race than to be role models and honest public servants. Sadly, it would be newsworthy to learn that there is a CBC member who is passionate about holding public servants to a high level of trustworthiness. There apparently are no such members, however. If there were some, they would have resigned from an organization that reflexively defends black Representatives who abuse their power, position and trust (thus endorsing unethical conduct) and cries racism when anyone outside the Caucus, including the House Ethics Committee, criticizes the obvious.

Perhaps this is why the revelation that Rep. Stanford Bishop (D-GA.) distributed scholarship funds intended for needy students in his district to family members and political cronies received so little media attention. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Month: Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

“I did not have an ethical alarm go off.”

Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, explaining (but not really) how she managed to give  23 of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarships Johnson has awarded since 2005 to two grandsons from Austin, two great-nephews from Plano, and two children of her top aide, despite explicit rules prohibiting nepotism, and requiring the scholarship to go to needy recipients in her own district, which none of these recipients were.

But thanks for the plug, Congresswoman! (It is “ethics alarm,” however, not “ethical alarm.”) Continue reading

Unscrupulous Rep. Johnson, Lying Through Her Teeth

Which is the more unethical conduct for a U.S. Congresswoman: handing out non-profit money to relatives and friends, or lying about it so flagrantly that it insults the intelligence of everyone within earshot? It’s a tough call. Luckily, we really don’t have to decide in the case of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), because she’s done both. Continue reading

Super-Soaker Ethics at Joe Biden’s Party

I don’t think I can do a better or more thorough job than Salon’s Glenn Greenwald at making crystal clear what is so ethically wrong with members of the Washington press corps happily frolicking with Vice President Biden, Rahm Emanuel and other administration Obama officials at Biden-hosted party, so read his column here. Not that what Greenwald says shouldn’t be immediately obvious, especially to the journalists themselves, but it obviously isn’t. I just heard Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter turned Fox flack, laughingly say that she used to share an Amtrak car with Biden when he was a Senator to get inside information, and she didn’t see why accompanying him on a water slide was any different.

Oh, come on. Continue reading