Thank You, Washington Post “Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler For Being The Best Ethics Alarms Ethics Dunce EVER!

I must say, this is the sort of thing that makes the heart of an ethicist, or at least this ethicist’s, swell with joy as the strains of “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life At Last I Found You!” take control of his brain, and the song bursts, full-blown and soaring, from his lips…You’ll have to excuse me…

Glenn Kessler’s “Fact Checker” column in today’s Sunday Post is a cornucopia of wonderful topics, including…

  • The dishonest conduct of media “fact-checkers” in using their columns not to dispute facts but to take issue with opinions, usually on partisan grounds, with which they disagree.
  • The misuse of “lies” and “lying” to describe either mistakes or opinions, neither of which are lies.
  • People who lie themselves while accusing others of lies.
  • Fact-checkers who misstate facts while accusing others of misstating facts.
  • The common misunderstanding that “consent” makes a boss’s sexual relationship with his or her subordinate ethically acceptable.
  • Rand Paul!
  • Bill Clinton!
  • Rand Paul attacking Bill Clinton!
  • ANYONE defending Bill Clinton’s conduct involving Monica Lewinsky.
  • The news media’s already evident intent to defend against all attacks, direct or oblique, on the liberal establishment’s choice for President in 2016, Hillary “The First Enabler” Clinton.

It just doesn’t get much better than this.

Let us begin with the root of Kessler’s  column and his inspiration, this statement by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky): Continue reading

Unethical Trio: An Ambush, An Incompetent Diagnosis, and Partisan Journalist Hackery

Doctors and Kurtz

There were three notable unethical performances last week from professionals who should know better:

I. Dr. Benjamin Carson, neurosurgeon. Carson was invited to give the keynote speech at the National Prayer Breakfast (don’t get me started about why there even is a National Prayer Breakfast, and why the President should feel obligated to attend it) last week and turned what is traditionally understood to be a non-partisan, non-political speech into a direct attack, without explicitly designating it as such, on President Obama’s policies. Yes, it was a well-written, well-reasoned and well-delivered speech, but it was an ambush. Many conservatives were pleased to have President Obama  subjected to an articulate complaint that “spoke truth to power,” yet the objectives and specific content of the speech doesn’t matter: that wasn’t what Carson was invited to do, and it wasn’t what he should have done. Dr. Carson has subsequently justified his actions in self-congratulatory terms as an act of courage, but in reality it was an instance of a citizen seizing an opportunity to grab national attention and a prominent soapbox that weren’t his to grab. His actions made the President of the United States a captive audience to his amateur analysis of national affairs. It was disrespectful, and because it was given under false pretenses, dishonest. Continue reading

What’s Fair To Herman Cain Now?

I love this Cain-trapped-in-amber image, except that the idea of a future entrepreneur creating an island attraction where former disgraced presidential candidates are cloned from their preserved DNA to roam free is terrifying.

Herman Cain has withdrawn from the GOP presidential nomination competition in the wake of Ginger White’s claims that he and she engaged in a 13-year long romantic affair. He withdrew in a particularly deceitful way, saying that his campaign was being suspended. Like most of his recent conduct and statements lately, this resort to face-saving euphemism does not speak well of his character. Yes, it’s true, his quest for the White House is suspended. It is also what is technically called toast. A more honest, courageous, candid and accountable man would have said so. I think we can safety say that one way or the other, this campaign took the measure of Herman Cain, and found him to be as wanting in character as he is inexperience and diligence. The system, ugly as it is, worked.

What else can we now fairly say of Herman Cain? I believe we can fairly conclude that… Continue reading

Cain’s Mistress: Don’t Blame The Media This Time

One of the side-effects of the news media’s routinely displayed lack of fairness and integrity is that its motives can be challenged even when it does its job properly. The media itself is completely at fault for creating this opportunity for spin artists to confuse the public with blame-shifting arguments, but the blame-shifters are shameless and despicable.  Thus we have to listen to a conservative talk radio barrage of accusations that Ginger White, the woman who has surfaced with the tale of a 13-year long affair with Herman Cain, was “dug up” by “them” in a coordinated effort to “get” a rising black conservative. This morning, such claims were proliferating all over the AM dial.

Politico opened the door for this, of course, with its unsourced, anonymous, still detail-free account of sexual harassment complaints of an undefined nature filed against Cain and settled over a decade ago. The stories never should have run without names and facts, and the subsequent appearance of other Cain accusers can’t change that. Publishing such a story, in violation of basic journalistic ethics principles, was unfair, and did look like a media hit job, though when the media is involved, Hanlon’s Razor (“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”) applies. As William Jacobson wrote over the weekend, Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Month: Herman Cain Attorney Lin Wood

What's that you say, Mr. Wood? Marital infidelity is irrelevant to a presidential candidate's qualifications? Did John Edwards tell you that?

“Mr. Cain has been informed today that your television station plans to broadcast a story this evening in which a female will make an accusation that she engaged in a 13-year long physical relationship with Mr. Cain. This is not an accusation of harassment in the workplace – this is not an accusation of an assault – which are subject matters of legitimate inquiry to a political candidate. Rather, this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults – a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life. The public’s right to know and the media’s right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one’s bedroom door. Mr. Cain has alerted his wife to this new accusation and discussed it with her. He has no obligation to discuss these types of accusations publicly with the media and he will not do so even if his principled position is viewed unfavorably by members of the media.”

Attorney Lin Wood, on behalf of his client Herman Cain, in a statement to Fox News in response to its  interview with a Georgia woman, Ginger White, who says she had a 13 year adulterous relationship with the Republican presidential contender.

Sorry, Mr. Wood. You are dead, dead wrong. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Herman Cain

Stick to pizza, Herman.

“Here’s what I would have – I would have done a better job of determining who the opposition is and I’m sure that our intelligence people have some of that information. Based upon who made up that opposition, OK, based upon who made up that opposition, might have caused me to make some different decisions about how we participated. Secondly, no, I did not agree with Qadhafi killing his citizens. Absolutely not. So something would have had to been – I would have supported many of the things they did in order to help stop that. It’s not a simple yes-no, because there are different pieces and I would have gone about assessing the situation differently, which might have caused us to end up in the same place. But where I think more could have been done was, what’s the nature of the opposition?”

—–Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain, responding to a reporter’s question asking for his opinion of President Obama’s handling of Libya. The comment followed an eleven second pause and one false start, as Cain appeared confused and unprepared for the question.

The ethical problem with Cain’s answer was not that he fumbled it, but that like his stated position on abortion, it is unethical and intellectually lazy. Continue reading

The Herman Cain Web Hoax, Confirmation Bias, and Untrustworthy Commentators

Other possible titles for this entry include “Now THIS Is Confirmation Bias!” and “How Ideological Passion Can Make You an Idiot.”

Here is a screen shot of a  Herman Cain PAC website that surfaced this week:

Did you think it was real? Do you think it was intended to fool anyone above the age of 12? Did you not see the horse gag coming a mile away? I guess the real question is, did it take you three seconds, or only one to figure out that it was a gag? Continue reading

The Bottom of the Barrel

See there, right at the bottom? That's the Washington Examiner. See it? Right next to Politico?

How low can the news media go in search of more Herman Cain dirt, semi-dirt, imaginary dirt, theoretical dirt, and non-news non-dirt that someone might think is dirt if they had their brain removed by a melon-scoop?  Low enough to print a story so ridiculous that even the National Enquirer wouldn’t stoop to publish it because it would violate its code of ethics, which is written in charcoal on a brown paper bag.

This low…..

From the Washington Examiner, and, naturally, immediately picked up by The Politico, which launched the whole Cain Sexual Harassment Feeding Frenzy:

“Donna Donella, 40, of Arlington, said the USAID paid Cain to deliver a speech to businessmen and women in Egypt in 2002, during which an Egyptian businesswoman in her 30s asked Cain a question. Continue reading

Ethics Exercise: Being Fair To Herman Cain Now

The other shoe.

In the wake of Sharon Bialek’s  press conference describing an alleged incident involving of attempted quid pro quo sexual harassment by Herman Cain in 1997 [read the account here] , and the Cain camp’s instant and unequivocal denial, fair Americans are posed with a classic ethics challenge: how do they assess her accusations while being fair to the accused? It is a daunting problem, with many components. How do can we compare Cain’s credibility with Bialek’s? What, relevance, if any, does the timing of her appearance have? How are the previous, still anonymous, un-detailed allegations of hostile work environment harassment to be factored in to our calculations?

Addressing this conundrum requires wading into a jungle of biases, presumptions and  caveats. Among them:

1. Is Bialek credible? Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: 53% of the American Public

If only Herman Cain could have been tried by the same standards of fairness as the Salem Witch Trials...

I am as sick of the Herman Cain sexual harassment issue as you are, I swear. But still..

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted over the weekend among 1057 respondents revealed that 53 percent now believe that allegations of sexual harassment against Cain are true. This, despite the fact that none of the 53% know what it is he is supposed to have done that constitutes sexual harassment, and, I am quite confident, almost none of them sufficiently understand what the definition of sexual harassment is. But they are still sure he did it, whatever it is, to at least one of these women, whoever they are.

I cannot image imagine a more unfair, irresponsible and indefensible opinion. Two women who have not revealed their identities and who have not had their allegations tested, examined or confronted, and whose accusations have no descriptions or facts connected to them whatsoever, have convinced 53% of the public of a political candidate’s wrongdoing despite his denials, and despite the fact that they know of no instance where he has engaged in conduct that could fall under the category of sexual harassment. It is one thing to pronounce someone guilty of a specific act of misconduct in the absence of evidence and without the accused having a chance to challenge it. That is wrong. But to pronounce an individual guilty of  an unknown act that has only been characterized but not described, in the absence of evidence and a named accuser?

The judges in the Salem Witch trials were more reasonable and just.

Congratulations to the news media for a successful smear campaign.