Ethics Update On The “Shithole” Scandal: More Dunces, Hacks, Hypocrites And Liars

When we last left the ‘Shithole’ scandal, now being cited routinely up and down the news media as proof positive that the President is a racist, we knew the following:

1 Unnamed sources “briefed on” or “familiar with” the President’s meeting with select lawmakers regarding an immigration deal told the Washington Post and others that President Trump “grew frustrated with lawmakers” when he learned that part of the proposed deal protected immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, and said,

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

2. Despite the fact that these “sources” had no direct knowledge of what was said in the meeting they did not attend, the New York Times characterized them as having “direct knowledge,” which was impossible. The news media also represented these accounts based on briefings as fact, with headlines such as the Times’ “Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa.”

3. In a series of tweets, the President denied the characterization of what he had said.

4. Senator Dick Durbin, while not expressly quoting the President, told reporters that Trump had said things “in the course of his comments which were hate-filed, vile and racist,” and added, “I use those word advisedly. I understand how powerful they are. But I cannot believe in the history of the White House in that Oval Office that any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday.”

5. Nonetheless, the news media, in its subsequent coverage in cable news shows and on the web, treated the claim that Trump had said what the second-hand, anonymous sources had claimed, and used this as a departure point for a general discussion of how racist and vulgar the President was. CNN commentators used the term “shithole” over a hundred times.

6. Websites and blogs with commentators capable of fairness and objectivity, like Ethics AlarmsAlthouse, and Powerline, were forced to accept arguendo (I’m sorry, but I love using that word) the anti-Trump narrative’s assumptions in order to point out that calling countries that are, in fact, “shitholes” is not a racist statement about the people in those countries. This, of course, is how Big Lie propaganda works. You have to accept the lie in order to debunk it.

To sum up, then: The news media reported as fact what were in truth  disputed comments in a private meeting, and the representation of these as truth solidified during the day and evening, and through yesterday.  Now we get headlines like this one, in Entertainment Weekly: “Anderson Cooper chokes up while discussing Trump’s ‘sh–hole’ comment”

Updated Comments and observations: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/12/2018: Sigh. It Never Ends. (Part II) [UPDATED]

A Nigerian locale, and not an atypical one.

From the Washington Post:

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.

Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt that they help the United States economically.

In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.” 

Ethics Observations:

I. “According to several people briefed on the meeting”? What? Not even according to people AT the meeting?

Based on this, without any attributions, the news media is stating that Trump making those alleged comments are fact. Here’s the Times version,

“…according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation.

No, they don’t have “direct knowledge.” What someone tells you about what someone else said at a meeting you were not attending is indirect knowledge. It is, in fact, hearsay. If the Times and the Post did not get confirmation on the record from someone who heard what he said, then this is not fact, but rumor, inadmissible in court because of extreme prejudice and lack of reliability.

Never mind. The Times headline is Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa, as if the second-hand accounts were  confirmed fact. This is unethical journalism. Outrageously so, in fact. Meanwhile, all of the news channels, including Fox, were basing hours of reporting on it.

This is not acceptable. It is not professional, and it is not justifiable. It is a disgrace, and if you accept it, you should be ashamed of yourself.

II. Trump denies that he uttered those words, on Twitter, of course:

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!…Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!”

The denials mean nothing, I know. The President has such a bizarre view of reality and such a record of misstatements and reversals that he has no credibility and deserves none. However, that doesn’t mean that he did make the alleged statements either. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. I certainly wouldn’t be “shocked.” It sounds like something he would say, because nuances of language and tone, not to mention civility ande diplomacy, are alien concepts to him. In other words, it rings true. That doesn’t mean it’s ethical to report it as fact. Continue reading