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Sexual Harassment, Victim Blaming, Toxic Corporate Cultures, President Trump’s Defense and Other Ethics Notes On Bill O’Reilly’s Fall (Part II))

The Ethics Alarms audit of the Bill O’Reilly canning by Fox (okay, technically it wasn’t a firing, but it was) continues…

9. One problem with the Left’s thinly veiled joy at getting O’Reilly is that it encourages the Right’s narrative that O’Reilly’s only crime was being conservative. Also not helping were President Trump’s interview statements about O’Reilly to the New York Times, in which he said in part,

“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person… I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

Stupid, stupid, stupid; irresponsible. Maybe two stupids and two irresponsibles. Do otherwise good people engage in sexual harassment? Of course: good people do bad things. But when a prominent individual says publicly that a sexual harasser is a good person, it sends a message that sexual harassment, like all abuse, doesn’t create a rebuttable presumption that someone is not a good person. Add to that Trump’s last statement, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” and the toxic messaging is complete. Either that statement means that the President is, based on nothing, claiming that the allegations against O’Reilly are untrue, or worse, he is saying that there is nothing wrong with sexual harassment. Based on his infamous exchange with Bill Bush, there is good reason to believe that this is exactly what he means.

10. That interview, in turn, led inevitably to this fatuous and offensive article by conservative blogger Roger Simon. Sure, Roger, you dummy, O’Reilly did nothing wrong except support Donald Trump. Count the rationalizations in this piece of offal by one of the shimmering stars in the Pajama Media firmament of conservative thought-leaders.

The sad truth is the many conservatives—most?—really don’t think sexual harassment is a big deal. It is one of many ethics blind spots.

11. One conservative who lacks that blind spot—though she has lots of others—is Sarah Palin, who had this exchange yesterday with CNN’s Jake Tapper: Continue reading

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Sexual Harassment, Victim Blaming, Toxic Corporate Cultures, President Trump’s Defense and Other Ethics Notes On Bill O’Reilly’s Fall (Part I)

As you probably know by now, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc ended its relationship with Bill O’Reilly at Fox News following what are being called allegations of sexual harassment, the revelation of them in the news media despite Fox’s pay-out of over $13,000,000 to the women who were involved, and a subsequent wide-spread boycott of his high-rated show “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Ethics Observations:

1. Good. Long, long overdue, but good. Fox News should have fired O’Reilly after the first sexual harassment episode which was years ago; it is a firing offense in ethical organizations for most employees, and the fact that Fox allowed its most influential and most profitable star to skirt accountability and survive to harass again was a classic example of the rationalization known as The King’s Pass, or The Star Syndrome.

2. The fact that Fox News creator, leader, and boss Roger Ailes was also jettisoned after a sexual harassment scandal showed at the time that the organization had developed an unethical culture that was hostile to women….as Ethics Alarms pointed out last July. (“There seems to be a culture of sexual harassment at Fox, coming down from the rotting fish head in charge, Roger Ailes.”)  This was the other shoe dropping.

3. O’Reilly issued a carefully crafted statement composed with the assistance of a “crisis consultant”:

“Over the past 20 years at Fox News, I have been extremely proud to launch and lead one of the most successful news programs in history, which has consistently informed and entertained millions of Americans and significantly contributed to building Fox into the dominant news network in television,” O’Reilly said in a statement. “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”

I would say the Bill is lying through his teeth with the “unfounded” part, but sexual harassers often don’t think they have done anything wrong. They think they were just being “nice,” or they think their advances were misunderstood, or they believe that the harassment accusations are a cover for something else. Ailes also denies that he did anything wrong. This is typical. It would have been a wonderful thing if O’Reilly could admit that his conduct was wrong and apologize to the victims while sincerely promising to change, but like most harassers, he couldn’t mount the character and the acknowledgement of hard reality to do it.

4. What is more damaging, perhaps, is that so many of O’Reilly’s fans and followers will believe his self-delusion because they also don’t “get” sexual harassment, and think the whole issue is manufactured feminist nonsense and political correctness. Boys will be boys! Everybody does it! 

5. If there is anyone who is informed and intelligent and still followed Bill O’Reilly without constant cognitive dissonance, they should be ashamed of themselves. If one was alert, Bill constantly revealed himself as a blowhard who was convinced he was smarter than he was, or perhaps more accurately, knew he was faking it and adopted a assertive, intimidating and self-righteous persona as cover for his own insecurities.  Continue reading

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The “Survivor” Ethics Bomb: Dubious Setting, Interesting Issues

An ethics bomb exploded on  the CBS reality show “Survivor” last week.

Ethics bombs are unforeseen and unforeseeable incidents that suddenly start a chain reaction of ethics problems, dilemmas and conflicts in all directions. This was a lulu. Well, it was a lulu unless one thinks that nothing that happens on a reality show can teach any ethics lessons at all, since they are all, by definition, fake news. If you watch the show, what happens on it matters to you; you have accepted the devil’s bargain of pretending what is manipulated and edited  by writers and directors is “real” in exchange for being diverted and entertained—so the ethics scenarios that periodically break out seem worthy of serious consideration. If you would rather watch paint dry—this is my niche—caring about the pseudo-real crises that actually happened months ago in the most contrived situation imaginable makes as much sense as cheering at a professional wrestling match.

However, just as illuminating ethics issues are raised on “The Walking Dead”—kind of a post-apocalyptic version of “Survivor” with zombies—they can arise on a reality show. In this case, the ethics bomb spread out into unscripted “reality.”

“Survivor” has been on the air for 17 years and 34  seasons—I can’t believe I just wrote that— and is itself an ethics bomb, since it launched the reality TV virus into the culture. Copied from a Japanese show, the idea is that a group of contestants are forced to compete in a remote and harsh location, divided up into teams (tribes) that are guided through daily challenges that yield various prizes, ranging from food to immunity from being ejected.. Each episode sees the losing team gathered around a campfire (“the tribal council”) where they vote on which team member to kick “off the island,” a phrase that has entered our lexicon. Contestants form alliances with each other and often reveal their character, or lack thereof, by engaging in various Machiavellian tactics to survive, all captured on camera. Some contestants lie, cheat and steal. Sometimes it works.

Last week, the tribal council took a sharp turn into real world social tensions when player Jeff Varner, knowing that he was poised to be jettisoned by his tribe and desperately trying to get their ire focused elsewhere, attempted to undermine fellow contestant and tribe member Zack Smith. Varner began by darkly claiming that all was not as it appeared, for there was widespread “deception” afoot.

“There is deception here,” Varner said. “Deception on levels, Jeff, that these guys don’t even understand.” “Continue,” said show host and producer Jeff Probst, who has presided over and moderated each tribal council from the beginning of the franchise.

Varner then turned to  Smith and said: “Why haven’t you told anyone you’re transgender?”

BOOM!

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Arrgh! They Made Me Defend Sean Spicer!

Yes, he’s an idiot. Still...

The latest Sean Spicer controversy was so, so stupid that I swore—swore I tell you!—that I would not lower myself to write about it.

The Trump Administration spokesman, making the dumb assertion that Assad is even worse than Hitler because Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” was absurdly—gleefully?— attacked as a Holocaust denier.ThnkProgress, which I am going to have to place on my “never trust these hacks” list, wrote that Spicer “argued that the Nazis never used chemical weapons during the Holocaust,” which is a lie, flat out. Spicer didn’t mention the Holocaust at all. Then The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect released a statement saying,

“On Passover no less, Sean Spicer has engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death.”

This is perhaps not quite a lie, since the combination of confirmation bias and paranoia could make this organization see Holocaust denial behind every rock, but it is no less ridiculous, inflammatory and unfair. Then some of my 2016 election-deranged friends—I now picture them wrapped in tin foil, wearing Groucho glasses and spreading DDT around as they sit cross-legged in a teepee with a flaming penguin on their heads—began citing the Anne Frank Center slander with approval, and garnishing likes from a lot of people who I usually like and who once had brains larger than marbles.

So now I have to defend Sean Spicer. Yecchh.

Observations:

1. Everyone is calling for Trump to fire Spicer. Of course he should fire Spicer. He should have fired Spicer  months ago. Sean Spicer is incompetent, bumbling, inarticulate and gaffe prone. He is even more incompetent, bumbling, inarticulate and gaffe prone than Robert Gibbs, who was the most incompetent, bumbling, inarticulate and gaffe prone press secretary I ever had the pain of watching. (Obama’s subsequent press secretaries were just liars.). Spicer is much worse than Gibbs, though he doesn’t say uh-uh-un-um-um-um as much. I wish he would: they would be an improvement over what he does say. Spicer looks stupid and sounds stupid, so he represents the President and his entire administration as stupid WHICH THEY MIGHT BE, but his job is to place both in the best light possible. He does the opposite. This Hitler botch was just the most recent example.

2. Trump promised to appoint and hire “the best people,” so having one of the worst people imaginable representing his Presidency to the news media and the public leaves “incompetent” in the dust as “suicidal” takes over. This is especially true since the President knows that the news media is actively hostile to his leadership and is actively allied with the Democrats to bring him down and cancel out that damned election by any means possible. Trump’s situation screams out for a spokesman with the credibility, suave and wit of the late Tony Snow or the fierce intellect and articulateness of the very much alive Laura Ingraham. The fact that Trump can’t see that, and that his advisors haven’t threatened to walk out and join an anti-Trump rally if he refused to fire this clod and send him back to the Budget car rental desk or wherever he came from is really ominous. If “best people” means people like Spicer…well, I don’t like to think about it. And if the “You’re fired!” executive won’t fire someone who performs as horribly as him, who will he fire?

3. The Hitler statement was, no question, idiotic. At best, it was the most egregiously warped use of Rationalization # 32. The Unethical Role Model imaginable: Spicer was really saying, “why couldn’t Assad be more like Hitler?”! At worst, it  was like walking into the buzz-saw of the Trump-hate narrative that the President and his team are virtual Nazis and secret anti-Semites. It was so dumb that the fact that Spicer didn’t physically try to stuff the words back into his mouth as they started coming out is signature significance that the man belongs in a home. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunces: The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences

The Academy Awards announced that it will allow PriceWaterhouseCoopers to continue to represent the Oscars’ integrity as well as the organizations pledge that the results aren’t being, will not be, cannot be and haven’t been rigged, misread, wrongly tallied or mistakenly announced.

This, despite the fact that the firm proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it cannot be trusted to do this, by either the Academy or the Oscar viewing audience, because it did not do it, exposing its carelessness and incompetence on national TV.

This is NASA letting Morton Thiokol continue to build space shuttles. This is the federal government re-hiring the same IT firm that made Healthcare.gov. This is Wesley Snipes rehiring the tax expert who told him he didn’t have to pay income taxes.

In addition to complete failure of management that the Academy’s decision to let bygones be bygones represents, it also has cultural consequences. As a culture, the United States has become allergic to accountability in all sectors. Over at Wells Fargo, where management presided over a nation-wide conspiracy to defraud depositors,  CEO John Stumpf opted for early retirement after the scandal, and is walking away with around $130 million, according to SEC filings.  Unless further action is taken by Wells Fargo’s board, which looks increasingly unlikely, Stumpf will leave with a fortune made up of stocks, cash payouts and other compensation. The Obama Administration, as documented here, repeatedly refused to hold incompetent agency heads accountable for fiascos, notably both of its Attorney Generals, and all three of its White House spokesmen. University president after university president disgraced their institutions by capitulating to racist, anti-speech, anti-education demands by students without consequence to their tenure. In journalism, Brian Williams remains on NBC’s payroll and the TV screen, despite having proven himself to be a habitual liar. Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “From The Ethics Alarms “Res Ipsa Loquitur” Files: Now THAT’S An Unethical TSA Patdown”

The post about the TSA agent’s excessive “patdown” of a young boy, caught on video, prompted spirited debate with many high quality comments.

Before presenting John Billingsly’s COTD, let me note up-front two of John’s points that I disagree with. First,while refusing to follow an illegal order is mandatory, the fact that one is given an order to do something unethical—and this patdown was unethical—does not reduce the responsibility to refuse if the harm to another is clear, obvious, and objectively unjust, as in this case. Second, everyone involved in a wrongful act is accountable, from the top of the chain of command to the bottom. I also have a third and fourth, but I’ll let others cover those.

Here is John Billingsley’s Comment of the Day on the post, From The Ethics Alarms “Res Ipsa Loquitur” Files: Now THAT’S An Unethical TSA Patdown:

According to a report at Dallasnews.com, “Afterward, the TSA officer was instructed by his supervisor, who was observing, to complete the final step of the screening process.” My emphasis added. This suggests to me that the agent himself was going to break procedure and omit “the final step” of the screening process, which I believe to be the genital grope, until he was directly ordered by his supervisor who was there in person to do it.

I understand the “just following orders” issue per the Nuremberg Trials. It looks like he was going to disobey the order (procedure) until he received the direct order from his supervisor. I don’t think there are many low level employees who would immediately disobey a direct order of a supervisor in that situation. When you are a grunt at the bottom and your boss tells you to do things the way you have been taught to do them, it is going to be very difficult to make the decision to disobey.

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No, Bill O’Reilly Shouldn’t Be Fired For Making Fun Of Rep. Maxine Waters’ Hair

Bill O’Reilly should have been fired before he made fun of Maxine Waters’ hair. Now would be the worst time imaginable to fire the blow-hard, untrustworthy Fox News pundit, because it would allow partisans to silence an opinion-maker whose opinions they hate by employing shameless and unjustified race-baiting. That tactic, employed repeatedly and futilely against Rush Limbaugh and other high profile conservatives, is unethical, and must not be validated by success.

In case you don’t follow O’Reilly, 1) I salute your taste and time management, and 2) here’s what caused the controversy:

O’Reilly was stopping by the set of “Fox and Friends,” and along with the gang on the couch watched some of Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ speech attacking President Trump. After the clip, O’Reilly said, “I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig.”

Being in the Land of the Dimwits, O’Reilly sparked an idiotic defense from co-host Ainsley Earhardt, who said, fatuously, “You can’t go after a woman. Plus, I think she’s very attractive.”

Why in the world can’t you “go after a woman” when the woman is an elected official who says ridiculous things as routinely as clockwork? Earhardt’s statement was sexist on its face, and as O’Reilly quickly found out, it wasn’t sexism that he was going to be accused of with his mean James Brown wig comment. By the way…

…he had a point.

It’s a nasty, ad hominem, unprofessional point, however, that lowers political discourse into the gutter. O’Reilly has been doing this in various ways from the beginning of his career, when he wasn’t misrepresenting his credentials, his conduct, or other matters. This, however, was a relatively minor example.

Never mind though: Waters is black, so by the infinitely adjustable weaponizing definition of racism used by progressives, black activists and Democrats for the previous eight years, to criticize her at all is to be a racist. This was a sub-version; criticizing a black woman’s hair is racist. OK, comparing a black woman’s wig to an iconic black soul singer’s wig is racist. Or something: just cry racism, and the hope is that it will tar O’Reilly so badly that he will become unemployable, and no progressive will ever have their blood pressure raised by him again.

All over social media, progressives of note and non-note called for Bill’s head because his comment was “racist.” This really takes chutzpah, since mocking Donald Trump’s hair and skin-color virtually became a national pastime in Leftist Land during the 2016 campaign, and is still. What’s the standard being advocated here? Calling a white President”s comeover anything from a dead animal to decomposing vegetables is perfectly acceptable political discourse, but comparing a black House member’s wig to the hair of a dead rock icon is too horrible to tolerate? The Washington Post published a feature called “The 100 Greatest Descriptions of Donald Trump;s Hair” last June. It included such entries as

  • A mullet that died in some horrific accident
  • Combed like he’s televangelist Benny Hinn.
  • Like Biff, from “Back to the Future”
  • Like Lucille Ball
  • Like a troll doll

And most worthy of discussion,  this: Continue reading

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