I love this story, and salute Tim Levier for bringing it to my attention. As Tim suggested, it’s got everything. Dishonesty, incompetence, a window on the utter ineptitude of our educational system, the arrogance of unqualified officials believing that they can lie their way to power while having complete contempt for the public…and more, including a journalist actually doing his job and vetting the legitimacy of a Democrat! A black Democrat, even!
Behold and prepare to be amazed…
Aurora School Board member and Democrat Eric Nelson is running for State Representative in Aurora’s District 42. Unfortunately for him, a Denver7 reporter decided to check on his claimed credentials, and the hilarious result has his embarrassed party calling on Nelson to stop running for office, and urging voter to support his opponent.
Nelson’s campaign website and his Aurora School Board biography states that he earned “a Master of Social Work from Northwest Nazarene University.” So Denver7 contacted the school, which said it had no record of Nelson attending. Nelson responded by sending what he said was a copy of his diploma via text message to two local newspapers, The Aurora Sentinel and The Colorado Statesman.
Denver7 Reporter Marshall Zelinger decided to examine the document (above) , and found several, er, problems: Continue reading →
“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 →
My ethics conundrum regarding the fake but accurate Social Security card solution—the Dan Rather approach, if you will— continued to garner a wide range of responses. Rick, as usual, has delivered one of the most thoughtful and provocative, and it is a worthy Comment of the Day.
Here is his comment on “Ethics Quiz: The Case of the Fake But Accurate Social Security Card”:
It strikes me that sometimes—not always, but sometimes—ethics is on a continuum. There’s the truly ethical, the not unethical, and the unethical, with many finer distinctions to be made.
I don’t running screaming into the night at the idea of faking a card, under the circumstances. Still, the truly ethical thing to do in this situation is to tell the prospective employer the truth. And the availability of all those other possible means of identification is indeed relevant. Provide one of the non-Social Security card alternatives and whatever other documentation is available. Importantly, if the employer, for whatever reason, is unwilling to accept this legally sufficient documentation, you don’t want to work for this person, no matter how much you need a job. Continue reading →
A conundrum I have been asked to solve:
A mother is working to get her foreign adopted child a new copy of his Social Security card, which was lost. The child is a citizen since infancy, and a SS number has been assigned to him, but the process for a naturalized alien to get another is long and fraught with red tape, delays and frustration. So far, replacing the card has taken ten months, though it was supposed to take three. Now the son is waiting for the card to be issued. Social Security says it is waiting for final approval from Immigration, and Immigration says that there is a bottle neck, but not to worry.
Meanwhile, the boy has a standing job offer for a job that he is excited about and that would help family finances considerably. He cannot be processed without a Social Security card, however. And the job will not be held open forever.
For $250, a friend of the mother’s can get a counterfeit Social Security card with the son’s real number on it. He can have it in a week,
Your Question, in the last Ethics Quiz of 2011:
Granted that getting such a fake card is illegal, is it unethical?
None of the agencies involved dispute his citizenship, that he is enrolled in Social Security or that his number is valid. He has a document from Social Security that lists his number. The fake card would not assert anything that wasn’t true, except that he actually had the official card. He would be offering fake proof, but fake proof of something that is undisputed and true.
Is this one of the rare cases when conduct would be both illegal and ethical?
I’ll take your responses and update this with commentary later.
Yes, it's time for another ETHICS QUIZ!!!
Be careful! This one is tricky.
Jayson Blair, as most of you will remember, was a spectacular fraud in the New York Times newsroom, a star reporter who was sacked in 2003 after it was discovered that he had fabricated numerous stories
Dan Rather, in contrast, was a distinguished and respected reporter and CBS anchorman who earned his accolades, but who was felled by a disgraceful episode in 2004 in which he conspired with a “60 Minutes” producer named Mary Mapes to use forged documents in support of a critical story about President Bush avoiding his duties when he was in the National Guard, which Rather presented on the air two months before the 2004 election. Continue reading →
The Legal Profession Blog reports that a New Jersey lawyer Donald Bedell Jr. has been reprimanded for forging two clients’ signatures on releases for an unauthorized settlement, appending his own signature as a “witness,” and then attesting that both clients had appeared before him to sign.
Not suspended. Not disbarred. Reprimanded. Continue reading →