Unethical Quote Of The Month: “Late Show” Host Stephen Colbert

“The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster.”

Comic Stephen Colbert, in the climax to an anti-President Trump hate-rant, on CBS’s “Late Night”

Ten points regarding Colbert setting several new lows for network fare, in entertainment, in comedy, and in political discourse:

1. “Cock holster,” needless to say, all by itself and without context, is gutter language. It does not belong in network TV monologues. It does not belong at the dinner table. You would not, if you had an atom of respect, common sense, dignity or decorum, use the term as a guest in a home,  in the workplace, in a conversation with your mother, in a conversation with a stranger, or in an exchange with someone within earshot of a child. There is no excuse for using such a term in public, and anyone using such a vulgar phrase in metaphorically littering our civic and cultural environment.

2. Colbert is a performer on a network TV show. The fact that it is on late at night is no mitigation of the ugly conduct here, just a rationalization (#22): at least it wasn’t on “Sesame Street.” Once, the four major TV networks, especially CBS, the Tiffany Network, the network that fired the Smothers Brothers for being excessively disrespectful to President Lyndon Johnson, had departments of standards and practices whose job it was to keep their bonds of trust with the American public that once invited into the collected homes of the nation, they would not abuse the privilege.

Stephen Colbert abused the privilege, and did so deliberately and flagrantly.

3. CBS, as a (once) respectable, responsible cultural leader and communications icon was obligated to suspend Colbert immediately.

If he had made such an ugly comment about Barack Obama, CBS would have done so. If a late night host had made such a comment about any previous President, it would have done so. (If he had made such a comment about President Hillary Clinton, Colbert would have been fired.) It should make no difference to CBS’s assessment of its obligations that it may calculate that a sufficient number of CBS audience members are poisoned with hate and have the manners and tastes of crude lowlifes. The network’s role in society is to maintain and even elevate our cultural standards, not to accelerate their degradation. Continue reading

Major Ethics Alarm: American Journalism Is Crumbling Before Our Eyes [Part 1: Signature Significance]

flag-american-crumbling

…and without trustworthy journalism, democracy cannot survive.

There was reason to hope that following its beyond miserable performance in its coverage of the campaign and election just concluded, American journalism would respond to reality and dedicate itself to repairing its broken relationship with traditional professional ethics. Poll after poll shows that the news media’s standing with the public has never been lower. Because the profession itself ought to be more keenly aware than anyone of how vital honest, fair and competent journalism is to the health of a democracy, one would expect that this would be a moment demanding brutal self-examination and rapid reform.

This is not what we are seeing, however. Consider:

  • Last weekend, ABC’s Jonathan Karl interviewed Donna Brazile in a New Year’s Day review of the election. I couldn’t believe it. She was introduced as a respectable commentator with no acknowledgment of her role in the Clinton fiasco and the news media’s disgrace. As Ed Morrissey wrote,

Why is Jonathan Karl interviewing Brazile in the first place? …It has been 62 days since CNN severed their ties with Donna Brazile over the fact (no longer an “allegation”) that she cheated during one of the Democratic presidential primary debates and attempted to cheat during a second one in Flint, Michigan. And yet ABC News is inviting her to sit down for a casual New Years Day chat like any other political analyst.

CNN shouldn’t have allowed her to be a staff member to begin with, since she was a partisan political operative. She used that relationship and exploited her conflict of interest to try to do what she could to  rig the election. She was exposed, lied by denying it, and fired. Now, after the election, she behaves as if nothing has changed, and ABC again presents her as a reliable analyst.

  • After WikiLeaks’ publication of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta revealed collusion and shockingly unethical ties between prominent journalists and the Clinton campaign, as well as the campaign openly referring to such journalists as allies, none of the journalists so exposed have been disciplined, nor have any of the news organization employing them indicated that they were so much as troubled by the revelation.

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While We’re Firing Biased And Incompetent Journalists, Let’s Sack Gayle King

What DOES Oprah see in this woman...

What DOES Oprah see in this woman…

CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King demonstrated on Thursday an unacceptable mindset for a broadcast journalist as we get deeper into the 2016 Presidential campaign, which is to say bias, ignorance, and a complete lack of awareness that biased and ignorant isn’t a wonderful way to go through life.

While discussing the State Department’s Inspector General’s report that exposed the full extent of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, King blithely said, to Face the Nation’s John Dickerson:

“So John, put it in perspective. How big a deal is this really? I was at an event last night, and both Democrats and Republicans were quoting Bernie Sanders saying, ‘I’m sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails’…so how big a deal is it?”

The disgrace is that any alleged journalist could say something this stupid and damning on  live TV without a bag over her head. A fair  translation of the statement is “I am ignorant of technology, the duties of executive leadership and ethics: I see nothing disqualifying about lying, or a Secretary of State intentionally placing the nation’s security at risk for her own personal benefit. I am a Democrat and I only hang around with people who think like me.” Continue reading

Ethics Observations On An Ugly–But Entertaining!—GOP Debate

CBS debate

I knew this time would come, and it came the same week for both parties: I’m getting sick of the debates, and it’s harder and harder to find new illumination and conclusions with each one. For some reason, however—the effect of the unsettling news of Justice Scalia’s sudden death. perhaps?—last night’s Republican debate (transcript here) was nastier and more personal than any of the debates this cycle, and Charles Krauthammer may be correct that that it was the most ugly Presidential candidates debate ever.

Observations:

1. This was 100% the fault of Donald Trump. I keep reading that the Republicans should be embarrassed—-what control does the party have over Trump? He’s in the race, and that means that he will drag down the conduct in the race. Arguing with him is like arguing with a 12-year-old—I was reminded of Erma Bombeck’s line that it is impossible to argue with a six-year-old without sounding like a six-year-old. Sometimes I think all the debaters should agree to turn their backs on Trump when he’s ranting, like all the jurors do in “Twelve Angry Men” when the racist finally lets it all out.

I wrote months ago that Republicans should have told Trump he wasn’t a Republican and thus wasn’t welcome in the debates, the nomination race or the party. They had neither the foresight, principles nor guts to do that, and now they are stuck with him polluting the debates and the race, engaging in the equivalent of belching and farting, as the juveniles supporting him cheer and snicker. Good job, everybody.

2. That was excellent, fair, competent moderation by John Dickerson. You know the debate has been a mess when the moderator is the star.

3. I have really come to resent Ben Carson’s sleepy, arrogant, useless statements and observations, wasting precious time, blathering platitudes, appealing only to those ignorant souls, like him, who really think the most challenging and consequential job on Earth should be handed to a proud amateur. In that respect, he is the most unethical individual on the stage. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Second Democratic Candidates Debate, Part 2 of 2

Dems three

The transcript is here.

Part I is here.

6. Sooner or later, a Democrat is going to have to answer a question about the “safe places,” microaggressions,” college campus meltdown that is, I think, just gathering momentum, and choose between alienating the young black base that elected Barack Obama, or horrifying people who believe in free speech and thought, presumably a few iconoclast Democrats and a lot of independents. Significantly, CBS didn’t ask Sen. Sanders that question.

Well, it’s significant if you  believe that CBS is protecting the Democrats. As we saw in Bernie’s coddling of Black Lives Matter, and know from the fact that he’s a Marxist at heart, he doesn’t really expect to be nominated and has no spine (see Part I), Sanders was a good bet to fully endorse the anti-free speech position taken by the students at Yale, Amherst and Mizzou. That would have put the whole Party, which right now is Hillary, on the spot. Surely CBS would never do that. The alternative is to believe that last night’s journalists were inept.

Only Hillary was asked the question, and she ducked it with something akin to what Olson Johnson called “authentic frontier gibberish”:

DICKERSON: Secretary Clinton, you told some Black Lives Matter activists recently that there’s a difference between rhetoric in activism and what you were trying to do, was — get laws passed that would help what they were pushing for. But recently, at the University of Missouri, that activism was very, very effective. So would you suggest that kind of activism take place at other universities across the country?

CLINTON: Well, John, I come from the ’60s, a long time ago. There was a lot of activism on campus — Civil Rights activism, antiwar activism, women’s rights activism — and I do appreciate the way young people are standing up and speaking out. Obviously, I believe that on a college campus, there should be enough respect so people hear each other. But what happened at the university there, what’s happening at other universities, I think reflects the deep sense of, you know, concern, even despair that so many young people, particularly of color, have…You know, I recently met with a group of mothers who lost their children to either killings by police or random killings in their neighborhoods, and hearing their stories was so incredibly, profoundly heartbreaking. Each one of them, you know, described their child, had a picture. You know, the mother of the young man with his friends in the car who was playing loud music and, you know, some older white man pulled out a gun and shot him because they wouldn’t turn the radio down.Or a young woman who had been performing at President Obama’s second inauguration coming home, absolutely stellar young woman, hanging out with her friends in a park getting shot by a gang member.And, of course, I met the mothers of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and so many of them who have lost their children.So, your original question is the right question. And it’s not just a question for parents and grandparents to answer. It’s really a question for all of us to answer, every single one of our children deserves the chance to live up to his or her god-given potential. And that’s what we need to be doing to the best of our ability in our country.

DICKERSON: All right, over to Kevin Cooney.

Hilarious.

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Ethics Observations On The Second Democratic Candidates Debate, Part I

Debate

[The transcript is here]

1. Before the debate even started, Mediaite posted an article (here)  about how the Democratic National Committee appears to be intentionally scheduling what few debates it is allowing to guarantee as low a viewership as possible. The logic. of course, is to minimize the opportunities for Hillary Clinton to make a gaffe or have to answer an uncomfortable question with too many people watching.

It is impossible to prove this short of an intercepted e-mail with the smoking gun words, but it’s a compelling theory. Why else, Joe Concha asks, would the DNC schedule all debates on weekends, especially when Saturday is the least watched TV night—by far—of the week? Why would last night’s debate, the last before the Iowa Caucus, be scheduled against the TV broadcast of the undefeated University of Iowa football team as they take on Big-10 rival Minnesota? (For those few Democrats in Iowa who don’t root for the local college, there’s the Oklahoma-Baylor game on ABC, one of the premier games of the college football season.)

[Personally, I don’t watch young college men in the process of giving themselves concussions and brain damage, or cheer for schools that warp their budgets by spending and making obscene amount of money on sports played by  students in name only while positioning them to extort administrators when campus activist pull their strings, like in the University of Missouri. But that’s just me.]

The next debate takes place on Sunday, January 17th on PBS in Charleston, S.C. Aside from the fact that choosing the little-watched PBS already guarantees a reduced audience, that debate will compete with the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.

2. John Dickerson, the new host of Face The Nation and the moderator last night, was also criticized in advance of the debate for being a hand-picked Democratic partisan. Of course, the odds are that any broadcast journalist would be ( a study released last week showed that 93% of journalists are Democrat/progressive, leaving Independents and Republicans to split the remaining 7%) but only Dickerson authored a red-meat anti-Republican screed for Slate earlier in the Obama Administration  with the memorable lines,

Go for the Throat! [I] f he wants to transform American politics, Obama must declare war on the Republican Party…

Fears that Dickerson would lob nothing but softballs at his fellow Democrats proved to be unfounded, however, to his credit.  In fact, a high percentage of his questions were CNBC-style accusations or “when did you stop beating your wife?” queries  (NOT to his credit) like this one to Martin O’Malley:

“Is the world too dangerous a place for a Governor who has no foreign policy experience?”

What’s the answer? “No, it’s not too dangerous a place…” or “Yes, it’s too dangerous for an amateur like me…”? That’s an unprofessional, unfair question, and everything Ethics Alarms said about the CNBC moderators applies to Dickerson. O’Malley just ducked the question and talked about something else, which is the only alternative to a Ted Cruz, “You know, you guys are shameless hacks” response. I much prefer the latter. Continue reading