Jumbo of The Month: “The Bible” Producers On The Obama As Satan Problem

Elephant?

Elephant?

Responding to criticism that the character of Satan in The History Channel’s popular Bible series looks a bit like President Obama—which it does—executive producer Roma Downey said, absurdly, in support of her fellow producers who pronounced the claim as “utter nonsense”:

“Both Mark and I have nothing but respect and love our President, who is a fellow Christian. False statements such as these are just designed as a foolish distraction to try and discredit the beauty of the story of The Bible.”

The essence of a Jumbo, the occasional award given here, is a brassily dishonest statement that evokes the memory of Jimmy Durante in the musical “Jumbo,” caught in the act of trying to steal the largest elephant in the world, and asking the sheriff innocently, “Elephant? What elephant?” as the huge pachyderm looked over his shoulder. Continue reading

Introducing the Jumbo Award and Its First Recipient: John Mark Heurlin, Esquire.

Today Ethics Alarms is launching a new category, the Jumbo Award. The Jumbo is named after the famous moment in the 1935 musical (and 1962 movie adaptation)“Jumbo” in which a clown, played in both by the sublime Jimmy Durante, is trying to sneak the largest elephant in the world out of the circus, which has been seized by creditors.  A sheriff intercepts the would-be elephant-napper, and demands, “Where do you think you are going with that elephant?” To which Durante’s character replies innocently, as if the pachyderm at the end of the rope in his hand is invisible, “Elephant? What elephant?”

Henceforth, the Jumbo will be periodically awarded to an ethical miscreant who continues to try to brass his or her way out of an obvious act of ethical misconduct when caught red-handed and there is no hope of ducking the consequences. And the first recipient is faux lawyer John Mark Huerlin.

Huerlin was suspended from the practice of law, yet was caught representing himself as a lawyer in several ways, which you cannot do while you are suspended. To do so is an ethical violation in itself—dishonest, defiance of the bar, and the unauthorized practice of law. Nonetheless, he used a letterhead that referred to the “Law Offices of John M. Heurlin” and an email address that read “JheurlinLaw@Netscape.net.” But the real kicker was that Heurlin held himself out as an attorney in litigation on his own behalf, by following his name with “Esquire” on court pleadings.

Huerlin told the bar that he could explain everything. Esquire means that I’m a lawyer in good standing? My goodness! This is all a big misunderstanding, then. I didn’t use “Esquire” to indicate that I was a lawyer. I thought “Esquire” just meant that I was a subscriber to the magazine, Esquire!

Now either disbarred or soon to be, Mr. Huerlin is officially authorized to replace that confusing reference to his reading habits with a new suffix, so he can present himself as John Mark Huerlin, Jumbo.

_______________________________

Facts: ABA Journal

Graphic: Abracadabra

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

 

What Do you Call A Newspaper That Defends Outrageous Journalistic Practices? How About “Di Tzeitung”?

If Di Tzeitung had covered the Civil War

If I could pronounce it, the Brooklyn-based Hasidic newspaper Di Tzeitung would be useful shorthand  for “shamelessly using rationalizations to defend indefensible conduct.”

Last week, the newspaper ran the now-familiar photo of President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and others in the White House Situation Room, except that in Di Tzeitung’s version, Clinton  and the only other woman present, Director for Counter-terrorism Audrey Tomason, had magically vanished. Di Tzeitung had airbrushed them out, Politburo-style.

Of course, publishing the photo of a historic news event and altering it to convey misleading or false information (in this case, “Hillary wasn’t there”) is a substantial and wide-ranging violation of core journalism ethics, a breach of the reader’s trust, unfair, dishonest, misleading, incompetent and disrespectful. The altered photo was alternately condemned and mocked all over the media and blogosphere. Yet Di Tzeitung is largely unapologetic, and made it clear that it would do the same thing again if the opportunity arose. In a prepared statement, the editors explained why they did nothing “wrong”…well, almost nothing…challenging the Olympic record for rationalization by a news organization along the way: Continue reading

A New Outrageous Excuse! Unfortunately, It Was True…

When the African nation of Togo protested that its embarrassing soccer loss to the Bahrain national team was due to a group of imposters masquerading as the Togo squad, I was excited: at least I had a new desperate, brazen and hopeless lie to enter the Ethics Alarms Futile Lie Hall of Fame, joining Jimmy Durante’s immortal “Elephant? What elephant?” line in the musical “Jumbo” (in response to being caught red-handed stealing the largest elephant in captivity, Lindsay Lohan’s explanation to police officers who had found cocaine in her pockets that “these aren’t my pants,” and comedian Michael Richards’ claim that he has no idea why he started yelling “Nigger!” at two black audience members when he has not a bigoted bone in his body—the  controversial “I was possessed!” excuse.

The “It’s not our fault: someone was impersonating me!” lie has great promise, not just for other disappointing athletic teams, but for politicians, John Edwards, the Democratic Congress, the producers of the “Sex in the City” movie sequel, Kanye West and Goldman Sachs. Thus I was devastated to find out that Togo wasn’t lying at all: their soccer team had been replaced by imposters.

Oh, well. And because the excuse now has validity, the “Someone was impersonating us!” excuse no longer qualifies as a sufficiently desperate and hopeless lie. It looks like Li-Lo, Kramer and “the Schnoz”  will have to wait a bit longer for their quartet.

On Obvious Lies and Sen. McCain

I have long been fascinated by the self-evident public lie. Sometimes the product of desperation, sometimes arrogance, sometimes contempt, each example poses a set of equally unattractive interpretations. Does the liar really believe the obvious lie is true, in which case he or she is deranged? Does the liar think that enough people will believe something so demonstrably false, meaning that he or she holds a deplorable lack of respect for the intelligence of the public? Is the liar so fearful and cowardly that he or she cannot summon the integrity to admit what is obvious, even though doing otherwise looks ridiculous? Or, as is surprisingly often the case, does the liar have so little regard for the truth and such a deficit of shame for lying that he or she doesn’t care that the lie is obvious?

When elected officials and others holding high office resort to the obvious lie in a matter of any importance, it should disqualify them from continuing in office. An obvious lie obliterates public trust. For example, when Janet Napolitano had the gall to pronounce department’s anti-terror airplane security measures a success because, be sheer luck, passengers foiled the so-called “Underwear Bomber,” she forfeited any future trust in her honesty of competence. (She is still Secretary of Homeland Security, however.)

The excuse sometimes offered by obvious liars after the fact is an ethics “Catch 22.” They argue that an obvious lie is a harmless lie, because nobody could possibly believe it. (Over on “The Ethics Scoreboard,” a spectacular version of this argument launched the continuing feature of “The David Manning Liar of the Month,” after Sony tried to justify its use of a fictional movie critic, “David Manning,” to attach glowing—but fake— blurbs to lousy films, like the Rob Schneider comedy “The Animal.” When its deception came to light, Sony protested its practice was harmless because nobody believed critical praise in movie ads anyway.) The defense conveniently ignores the question of why anyone would offer a lie they didn’t expect anyone to believe. It is really a consequentialist scam: if I try an outrageous lie and it works, great; if it doesn’t, then it wasn’t a lie.

What do we make, then, of Sen. John McCain’s stunning claim in a recent Newsweek interview that “I never considered myself a maverick” ? Continue reading

Soccer Ethics, and the Duty to Self-Report in Sports

Back in January, Pope Benedict XVI opined that soccer was the perfect vehicle to teach young people moral lessons, “a tool,” in his words, “for the teaching of life’s ethical and spiritual values.” Since then, soccer players have been going out of their way, it seems, to prove him wrong, led by New Mexico women’s soccer player Elizabeth Lambert. Continue reading