Can Of Waning Work Week Ethics Worms: Race-Based Justice And Other Revolting Creatures [Corrected]

1. I hate to take pleasure in anyone’s career setbacks, but...the word that CNN’s unethical media watchdog, Brian Stelter, is about to get dumped is good news for everyone but him. It also means that CNN will have rid itself of its two most flagrantly partisan and dishonest talking heads, the other being Chris Cuomo. Stelter took over “Reliable Sources” from the flawed but qualified Howard Kurtz, who had covered media conduct for the Washington Post, and at least tried to be objective (and still does at Fox.) Stelter immediately transformed the Sunday show into a CNN-fawning, Fox News-bashing epitome of what a news ethics show must not be. The last hack standing among CNN’s worst is now Don Lemon, who because he is black, gay and cute apparently is immune from his just desserts. As Meat Loaf memorably observed, however, two out of three ain’t bad.

2. Wait, what? Tim Allen isn’t the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the new Pixar film? The Buzz origin film, which has Chris Evans as the new voice of the popular character from “Toy Story” 1-4 is already creating controversy because it features a lesbian kiss. You know: that’s Disney’s way now. The movie’s director Angus MacLane “explained” that the recasting was necessary because the new animated film called for a more serious Buzz. Does anyone believe that? Allen was replaced because he’s an outspoken conservative, and Disney/Pixar wanted a star who would vigorously defend lesbian smooches in a kids movie, because that is apparently it’s priority these days. If the director wanted Buzz to sound more serious, he could direct the voice actor to voice him that way.

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Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 10/19/2018: Digging Out

Good Morning!

My CLE circuit-riding adventure was completed when I returned home last night, and now I have the ethics equivalent of Augean stables facing me. So I’m grabbing my metaphorical shovel, and going to work…

1 Rationalization #22 approach: At least it wasn’t a tweet… During a rally in Missoula, Montana yesterday, President Trump endorsed Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte’s  May 2017 attack on Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs (Gianforte eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault), saying, “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy.”

I’m at a loss. This comment comes in the context of a Saudi journalist being vivisected and Democrats diving at the low road by encouraging incivility and harassment of conservatives. How aware does someone have to be—not just a President, but anyone—to figure out that it is no time to be praising thugs like Ginaforte, whom I wrote about (twice) here?

2. Pro tip: If you want to hide your status as a left-biased hack, don’t use PolitiFact as authority for your opinion. Those who can’t quickly discern that PolitiFact is a blatant example of that oxymoron, a biased media factchecker, are too biased themselves to be taken seriously. (Most of Ethics Alarms’ self-exiled progressive shills were addicted to PolitiFact). Here is yet another smoking gun: now that an election is looming, PolitiFact is barely even trying to appear objective.

First, PolitiFact awarded a “ mostly false” rating this week to former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., for a campaign ad that says of her Senate opponent, “While we were in harm’s way in uniform, [ Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.] was protesting us in a pink tutu and denigrating our service.” Even by the service’s own description of the episode, the ad is accurate. Here is PolitiFact’s argument, which is pretty typical of what the news media calls “fact-checking”:

McSally retired from the Air Force in 2010 after 26 years of military service. After 9/11, Sinema led protests against the war in Iraq. At a 2003 rally called “No War! A Celebration of Life and Creativity,” Sinema wore a pink tutu. Media reports of the rallies in 2002 and 2003 quote Sinema as opposing the war and the Bush administration’s policy, but we found no evidence of her disparaging troops. McSally’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Disagreeing over whether or not an anti-war protest disparages troops is not disproving a fact. This, however, is even worse:

The GOP’s Senate Leadership Fund released an ad this week, titled “‘Normal’ MO,” focusing on Senator Claire McCaskill’s penchant for traveling by private plane and alleging that Senator is out of touch with her constituents.

“Claire even said this about private planes,” the ad says, cutting to video of McCaskill saying, “That ordinary people can afford it.”

Responded PolitiFact: “Did Claire McCaskill say normal people can afford a private plane? No.”

The video highlighted in the GOP ad shows an August 2017 town hall in which a constituent asked McCaskill, “You know, that’s one thing the United States has that nobody else has, is the freedom to fly around and be affordable where a normal person can afford it.” McCaskill responded, “Will you remind them when they come after me about my husband’s plane that normal people can afford it?”

PolitiFact apparently never reviewed the whole exchange, falsely writing that “the audience member never said anything about private planes in the clip; he appears to be referencing the freedom and low cost of the overall U.S. commercial aviation system.” Finally,  Politifact took down its McCaskill story, announcing that it would “re-evaluate” it in light of “ new evidence.”  The new evidence is the full video which has been available for months.

“[A]fter publication,” says PolitiFact, “we received more complete video of the question-and-answer session between McCaskill and a constituent that showed she was in fact responding to a question about private planes, as well as a report describing the meeting … We apologize for the error.” But even after getting the full context and confirmation of McCaskill’s remarks, PolitiFact still only gave the GOP ad a “half true” rating, because, it said, the ad “exaggerated” the full context of what the senator was saying. PolitiFact argues that McCaskill’s comments “seem to refer to ‘normal’ users of private planes, not to ‘normal’ Americans more generally.” She said, “Will you remind them when they come after me about my husband’s plane that normal people can afford it?” You tell me: Is PolitiFact clarifying, or desperately spinning for its partisan purposes? [Pointer and Source: Washington Examiner 1,2] Continue reading

A GOP Candidate Wins A House Seat In Montana Despite Attacking A Reporter The Night Before The Election. What’s Going On Here?

Yesterday, in an Ethics Alarms post pointing out that nobody should vote a person who physically attacks reporters, or indeed, who attacks anybody, into Congress, I wrote,

What kind of person would vote for Gianforte after last night’s display? The kind of person who argues that character doesn’t matter in elected officials, only their positions.

And idiots, of course.

Candidate/Thug Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate, won the election nonetheless with over 50% of the votes. Rob Quist, the Democrat, received only 44%. Does this mean that over 50% of Montana voters are idiots? No, that wouldn’t be a fair conclusion. An estimated 60% of voters had turned in their ballots already, so the Gianforte voters in that batch weren’t necessarily idiots. (As I implied in the post yesterday, the advocates for voting before election day, thus allowing late-arriving information about the candidates—as in, “Hey! This guy is an unstable, volatile jerk with the judgment of a bar room goon!” to have minimal effect on  election results, have embraced an irresponsible, idiotic even, policy.)

Gianforte’s victory illuminate  other ethics issues, hwoever:

1. Addressing supporters in his victory speech, Gianforte apologized to the reporter he body-slammed, the journalists who witnessed the attack, and Montanans, saying “When you make a mistake you have to own up to it. That’s the Montana way.”

Ugh, yecchh, gag, petui!

If that’s the Montana way, why did Gianforte sit back and allow his campaign to blame the episode on the reporter? Remember, the statement from Gianforte’s staff, which is to say Gianforte,  said that the reporter,

“entered the [campaign] office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions….After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

That isn’t owning up. That’s covering up, spinning and lying. Does the new Congressman’s apology mean that he acknowledges that his campaign was lying? When will he own up to that?  An apology now is cheap, cynical and meaningless, for Gianforte won, and Montana is stuck with him for two years.

2. A Montana TV station refused to inform its viewers that Gianforte had assaulted and battered a reporter. NBC affiliate KECI, recently purchased by the conservative media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting, adamantly kept the report of the attack and the audio of the incident,  arguing that “The person that tweeted [Jacobs] and was allegedly body slammed is a reporter for a politically biased publication.”  That “biased publication” was the Guardian, and the tweeter was Ben Jacobs, the victim. His account was confirmed by reporters from Fox News…you know, that liberal network that is always trying to make Republicans look bad. The anchor of the evening newscast, Laurel Staples, read a statement that said, in part, “NBC Montana takes pride in reporting only verifiable facts from an independent, reliable sources.”

 NBC News, including the Today show and affiliates across the country, played the audio of the altercation between Jacobs and Gianforte, who was charged with misdemeanor assault, indicating that reports of the episode were reliable. Continue reading

Incompetent POTENTIAL Elected Official Of The Month: Montana Republican Greg Gianforte, or, Ethics Verdict: Anyone Who Votes For This Guy Today Is Irresponsible, And Probably An Idiot”

First a classroom fist fight between teachers, and now this.

Last night Republican Greg Gianforte, in a close and closely watched contest with Democrat Rob Quist to fill the open, and only, Montana Congressional seat in today’s special election, snapped and attacked Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian. You can read the account of a witness (from Fox News) here, and the recording above seems to confirm it. The aspiringg statesman was charged with misdemeanor assault.

Good.

Three newspapers, this one, this one and this one, immediately withdrew their previous endorsements of the Republican in the race.

Good.

Good.

Good.

This passage from The Missoulian’s editorial this morning is a succinct summary: Continue reading