The Little Blue Jon Stewart Caboose On The Brian Williams Ethics Train Wreck

Blue Caboose

I’ve stopped updating the passenger list on the rapidly slowing Brian Williams Ethics Train Wreck. Essentially it’s all biased and unethical journalists outing themselves and not being honest or sufficiently self-aware to realize it.

Bulletin: Brian Williams being exposed as an untrustworthy journalist isn’t a “tragedy” for anyone but Brian Williams and NBC’s bottom line, and he was no more a “giant” of broadcast journalism than Joe McCarthy was a “giant” of the U.S. Senate. He was a fraud, and his exposure and fall was a good thing, as exposures of frauds always are. His demise (he isn’t coming back, and NBC should stop the speculation and just say so) does serve as a useful trap for similarly unethical and biased journalists, like TIME’s Joe Klein, who made no sense at all while bemoaning the treatment of Williams in an interview on Fox News, first using a straw man argument:

“I think that we’re living in an era where the ferocity of the prosecution is much greater than the severity of most of these crimes.”

No one’s alleging any “crimes,” Joe. Journalists who are paid huge contracts to deliver the news in a professional and trustworthy fashion can’t be allowed to stay on the air. Absent the “ferocity,” Williams would still have his job today, because news organizations value their profit over integrity and ethics. Plenty of people don’t care if journalists are ethical or not, and can’t tell the difference. If critics don’t make their legitimate complaints strongly enough, the majority’s apathy prevails.

Then Joe went for the rationalizations, this time, #19 and #20:

“And all of us make mistakes. All of us do make mistakes.”

Someone explainsignature significanceto Joe Klein, because Williams’ helicopter fable was a perfect example of it, as I surmised from the first report of the episode. Yes, good journalists make mistakes, but ethical and trustworthy journalists don’t make mistakes like that, even once—telling a false story about being in one helicopter under fire when the reporter was really in another. Sure enough, we have since learned that Williams made up lots of stories that upon examination could not have been true (Joe apparently wants to ignore all that), like seeing bodies floating in the French Quarter after Katrina, like claiming that he was imbedded with elite SEAL team that took down bn Laden. They weren’t doubted at the time because we didn’t know Brian Williams was a serial liar then. “Mistakes” are not the issue. Moreover, Williams’ “false memory” defense, complete with “experts” sent out to the media to explain this phenomenon, was also a lie, and a carefully devised one. His other false reports, slowly becoming known like the endless trail of Bill Cosby victims, prove it.

Next for Joe: euphemisms. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Joe Klein and Chris Matthews

John Edwards agrees with Chris Matthews

Journalist Joe Klein has been a candidate for an Ethics Dunce award for a long time, because he has been ethically suspect or worse for a long time. His defining integrity moment came when he lied about his authorship of the Bill Clinton roman-a-clef, “Primary Colors.” Since that time, Klein has gradually evolved into a shamelessly biased and ethically muddled political commentator from the left. Too bad. He’s a perceptive guy and a wonderful writer, but he makes his living now shooting from the hip, so we seldom get the benefit of his best qualities.

It was inevitable that the Chris Matthews Show would allow Klein’s ethical blindness to reach full flower.  Matthews has been on his own journey of self-diminishment since MSNBC decided to become the anti-Fox; where once he could be counted on to treat the issues of the day fairly and avoid partisan cheerleading, the Obama years have seen him abandon any effort at objectivity or even-handedness. Matthews’ Sunday morning panel show now eschews ideological balance and has Matthews posing questions to a rotating group of reliable conservative-bashers, with an occasional straight journalist mixed in who at least pretends to be neutral.  On Sunday, Matthews asked his panel about the appropriateness of the Justice Department’s prosecution of uber-cad John Edwards for violations of the federal election laws. It’s not a bad question, and reasonable people can disagree about the answer. The charges against Edwards stem from solicitation of large cash gifts from two long-time friends and supporters while he was simultaneously running for president and trying to cover up the existence of his love-child with Rielle Hunter and the adulterous affair that spawned her.  The money was given directly to Hunter, raising a legal question as to whether it was really a campaign contribution at all. Continue reading

Ethics Carnage in Wisconsin: The Ethics Grades So Far

The battleground

The story to date: Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker announced a budget-repair measure to address  looming budget deficits (in a state with a balanced budget mandate in its constitution) by requiring state employees to contribute a larger proportion of their pensions and health care plans, and  restricting their long-standing  collective bargaining rights. Wisconsin’s deficit is projected at $30 million for the remainder of the 2011, with a shortfall of $1.5 billion projected for next year. In response to Walker’s announcement and the near certainty of his plan being passed by the Republican dominated state legislature, 14 Democratic legislators fled the state to prevent a quorum and block a vote, teachers left their classes to protest in Madison, where they were joined by thousands of pro-union protesters, many of whom were organized and bused in by Organizing for America, a White House operated political group.

Let’s try to separate the ethics wheat from the chaff—amazingly, there is actually some wheat–and get an early line on the heroes, dunces, villains, and the rest as the Wisconsin budget battle threatens to become a full-fledged Ethics Train Wreck. Continue reading