Yes, I’m Blaming The Victim: Ben Gravolet Is An Ethics Dunce. And A Jerk

You may have missed it, but Ellen DeGeneris, the queen of daytime talk shows whose brand has always been her niceness, has had her once impeccable  reputation sullied lately as employees of her show have complained about a “toxic environment” that the star did nothing to address. There’s an investigation now, and Ellen is rumored to be considering leaving “Ellen,” meaning that instead of toxic employment, her staff and production crew will have no employment at all.

In the midst of this crisis for DeGeneris, sensing a cheap opportunity to grab some publicity, kick her when she’s down, and apparently seek vengeance for a slight that he has obsessed about for more than 40 years, a man named Ben Gravolet has come forward to tell the world that…..what, that DiGeneres sexually molested him? That she was secretly working for Fidel Castro? No, Ben accused Ellen of being mean to him when he was 11 years old.

We should have seen this coming, for it is the dangerous slippery slope Christine Blasey-Ford’s dubious accusation against Bret Kavanaugh greased. Continue reading

Observations On Neil Cavuto’s Oddly-Timed Scolding Of President Trump

Fox News host Neil Cavuto decided to vent his frustration with President Trump yesterday, delivering a direct rebuke, addressing him in the second person. You can read the whole statement below after the commentary, or before, if you prefer.

I like Neil Cavuto. He’s a nice guy, he’s sincere, and he tries to be fair. He even had me on his show once. The format he chose, the Keith Olbermann direct address [Keith: “And why is it, SIR…”], I detest, and feel is pompous and inappropriate. Its a fake confrontation: Cavuto wouldn’t talk to the President like that if he were really in front of him, so it suggests boldness on his part that is illusory rather than real. It’s also arrogant grandstanding. Who is Cavuto to reprimand the President? He can give his opinion like anyone else, but talking to him through the camera like he was a naughty child is presumptuous.

In general, Cavuto’s point is undeniable: Trump’s constant puffery, exaggerations, contradictions, spontaneous utterances  and recklessness with the facts undermine his credibility, infuriate both allies and foes, and give ammunition to those who want to destroy him. In short, his habit is stupid. However, this was a known feature of the man’s style and character a decade ago. No, he can’t or won’t change, and that’s a weakness.  But who didn’t know this? Does Cavuto really think his tirade adds anything to the public’s knowledge? Does he think the President is going to reform because Neil Cavuto takes him to task?

In the specifics of his argument, however, Cavuto’s logic is so shaky that I wondered if he really thought his rant through, or, in the alternative, is not as smart as I thought he was. His initial sally is a non sequitur: the fact that President Trump frequently mangles the truth doesn’t make the news media  any less dishonest, incompetent and untrustworthy. Since a vast amount of the fake news polluting the public’s understanding of the issues involves fake news designed to undermine Trump, he has every right, and I believe a duty, to call it what it is.

Is Cavuto’s showboating just a member of the journalists’ club standing up for his colleagues against their adversary? It sure sounded like it.  He seemed to be mouthing the same excuse I hear from Facebook enablers of the biased media: “Yeah, well, OK, Rachel Maddow was hyping the Russian story and using dubious evidence, but Trump lies even more!” President Trump’s job is to run the country. Not being truthful can get in the way of that, but being accurate is not his job, nor is it one of his duties. Journalists, in contrast, are ethically obligated to inform the public truthfully no matter what whoppers a President may tell. The President doesn’t make the news media lie, so to say he provides the “ammunition” for fake news is nonsense. Cavuto is excusing lousy, dishonest, and divisive journalism. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Actor and Ex-“George” Jason Alexander

susan-ross

The gag on “Seinfeld” was that all four of the main characters (and most everyone else, too) were selfish, neurotic, essentially horrible people. Michael Richards signaled that he might have been channeling his inner creep into “Kramer” when he had a spontaneous racist meltdown during a stand-up gig, effectively destroying his career. Now we have learned what a mean-spirited, gratuitously cruel jerk Jason Alexander is. And I always thought it was just the fact that he was playing mean-spirited, gratuitously cruel jerk Larry David as “George Costanza.”

The “Seinfeld” episode in which George’s rich, odd fiancee Susan Ross died by licking too many cheap wedding invitation envelopes has always been controversial, as many critics and fans felt that it caused the show’s characters to cross over the line from endearingly strange and self-involved to outright despicable—especially George, who received the news of her death with thinly veiled relief.

In an interview with a genuinely despicable individual, Howard Stern, Jason Alexander, previously “George Costanza,” was asked by Stern how Susan’s sudden death became an episode.

“This poor girl,” Alexander said, chuckling.  “The actress is this wonderful girl, Ms. [Heidi] Swedberg… I love her. She’s a terrific girl. I love her. I couldn’t figure out how to play off of her.”

Stern: “You’re being kind.”

“No,” said Alexander, meaning “Yes.”  “Her instincts for doing a scene — where the comedy was — and mine were always misfiring.”

Alexander went on to say that his castmates told him he was being unfair until they had to play scenes with Swedberg. “Finally, they do an episode where Elaine and Jerry have a lot of material with her,” Alexander said. According to Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Seinfeld concurred afterward that it was ” fucking impossible” to play off of her.

Alexander then fingered the actor who sealed “Susan’s” doom.  “Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Elaine”) actually said, ‘I know — don’t you just wanna kill her?’” “Seinfeld” co-creator and writer Larry David then agreed to execution by envelope.

“Every time I tell this story I cringe,” Alexander said, “because Heidi is the sweetest.”

In a career turn that sounds like a  punchline, Swedberg now lives by teaching the ukulele and leading her own ukulele band.

Alexander, not to be excessively harsh, is scum. Continue reading

George Washington Says Jon Stewart Is An Ethics Dunce

All right: Jon Stewart’s post-Rick Sanchez meltdown quip that “All he has to do is apologize to us, and we’ll hire him back!” (evoking Sanchez’s fatal accusation that a conspiracy of Jews runs the news) was pretty funny. The problem is that it and a couple of other barbs he aimed at the fired and disgraced ex-CNN host will be heard by millions three weeks from now, on October 21, when the special “Night Of Too Many Stars” is finally aired. Comedians never have to be kind, fair, empathetic or classy, and often are not—just think about all the jokes about Lindsay Lohan, a sadly immature young woman seemingly incapable of curbing self-destructive behavior—but gloating is gloating, and doing the Flamenco on the face of a fallen adversary is neither attractive not admirable…even if it’s funny. Continue reading