Tag Archives: lies

20 Ethics Observations On The President’s Charge That Obama Tapped His Phones

In the first week of March, in the midst of the over-blown flap regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ two meetings with the Russian ambassador, President Trump issued arguably his most explosive  tweet yet:

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!.

Later, he  tweeted,

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

It has been more than a week, and we know only a little more about what prompted this extraordinary accusation than we did then. However, there are some relevant ethics point to be made. Here we go…

1.  It is irresponsible and unpresidential to issue tweets like this. It is also unfair. If the Trump administration wants to make a formal complaint, charge or indictment, or announce an investigation, it should be made through proper channels, not social media. That stipulated, he will not stop doing this, and at some point we will have to accept it. Is this how Presidents communicate? It is now.

2. Thus the tweet is unethical even if it is true. However, the fact that it is unethical, or that Trump the Liar sent it, doesn’t mean it is untrue. An astounding number of pundits and journalists have made exactly that assumption, proving their bias against the President and their knee-jerk defensiveness regarding former President Obama.

3. The tweet cannot be called a “lie,” and anyone who does call it a lie based on what is known is revealing their confirmation bias.

4. One more point about the tweet itself: the fact that it has a typo and the level of articulation of the average 9th grader is itself an ethics breach. The President should not sanctify carelessness, or seem to embrace it. He is a role model.  Nor should a significant charge be written in haste, as this obviously was.

5. There seems to be a significant possibility that the President was trolling. Having had enough of the months long, absolutely evidence-free news media and Democrat innuendos that his campaign was coordinating election tampering with the Russians, he may have decided to make a sensational, unsubstantiated charge of his own to get the Russian hacking speculation off the front pages. If it was trolling, it was excellent trolling. The McCarthyism purveyors  deserved it; the accusation was a deft tit-for-tat,  one of the President’s favorite rationalizations.

6. As an example of what Trump has been and is being subjected to, we have Rep. Keith Ellison, vice-chair of the DNC.  He told Alisyn Camerota on CNN’s “New Day last week,”

“This is stunning when you think about it. Far worse than Watergate, when you believe a hostile foreign power engaged in an attempt, and with the collusion of the sitting administration to manipulate an election.”

By sheerest moral luck, Camerota that day was feeling ethical, so she actually corrected a Trump-basher from her own party, said, “Well you don’t know that,” and pointed out that there is no evidence of collusion.

“I’m not saying there was collusion, I’m saying those meetings indicate that there could be, and I think that needs to be investigated,” Ellison then said, immediately after saying there was collusion.

These are awful, vicious, conscience- free people who subcribe to total political war and the ends justify the means. They are trying to bring down an elected government without winning an election. Even that does not justify treating them unethically, BUT… Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: The Fate of Rachel Dolezal

dolezaltoday

I hope you remember Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP branch president who falsely claimed to be black, double-talked and lied about her racial origins, and was defended by the “race is just a social construct” crowd on the left, as part of the same ideological fantasy that holds that a man can be a woman by just deciding that she is one. Ethics Alarms discussed her strange story here, here, and here.

Following her 15 minutes of fame, Rachel was somehow unable to manage a book contract or a speaking tour, perhaps because she is a walking, talking Achilles heel for several beloved progressive myths, Now she’s jobless and living on food stamps, and facing foreclosure and expects to be evicted next month.

“There’s no protected class for me,” she told The Guardian. “I’m this generic, ambiguous scapegoat for white people to call me a race traitor and take out their hostility on. And I’m a target for anger and pain about white people from the black community. It’s like I am the worst of all these worlds…I do think a more complex label would be helpful, but we don’t really have that vocabulary. I feel like the idea of being trans-black would be much more accurate than ‘I’m white.’ Because you know, I’m not white.”

Of course, she is.

Dolezal says she’s been rejected for  over 100 jobs. She has had offers on the freak show circuit,  in porn and reality TV. But Dolezal is not uneducated or dumb. Surely there are many jobs that she could perform, and well.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day is this…

Would you hire Rachel Dolezal?

Continue reading

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The Unethical, Depressing, Bar Complaint Against Kellyanne Conway

kellyanneThis post is one I do not want to write, and the fact that I have to write it is profoundly depressing. It requires me to criticize, indeed blow the whistle on,  professional colleagues in the fields of law and ethics, some of whom I know and admired very much, as well as fellow members of the District of Columbia Bar. Some of these colleagues are also members, like I am, in a distinguished association dedicated to the field of legal ethics. A superb book on the topic by one of the professors involved  sits in a prominent place in my office bookshelf.  I can see it right now.

Yesterday evening, I learned that a group of fifteen law professors and lawyers have filed a professional misconduct complaint against White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, claiming that she violated the Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys by giving false statements to the media. The fifteen signed the complaint, which was filed with the D.C. Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel. When I read the names, signed on a statement printed upon the official stationery of Abbe Smith, a distinguished full time professor at my alma mater, (and where I worked in the administration for four years), Georgetown University Law Center, my heart sank. While I did not need to read the whole complaint to know it was contrived and intellectually dishonest nonsense, I did, and it fulfilled my worst fears. The anti-President Trump hysteria that has caused so many previously fair and rational citizens on the Left to behave atrociously and to betray their previously held values has officially infected lawyers in the legal ethics field. They are now riding the rails on the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck.

To be absolutely clear and unambiguous: the complaint is a political attack, and a cheap shot at the President of the United States through his staff. There is no merit to any of its contentions.

The professors claim that they were “compelled” to file the complaint because D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 8.3 (a) requires that

“A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional authority.”

They are either addled by partisan political animus or lying, because there is no way, no way, these fifteen professors could know that, or even validly conclude it, based on what they have written in the complaint. To call their accusations against Conway a stretch is to be too kind. They are forced, exaggerated, trivial and manufactured. From what I have read in past commentary and opinions of several of them regarding other matters of lawyer misconduct, I have serious doubts about whether they believe them. I know that’s a serious charge, but I see no other explanation, other than temporary insanity.

To begin with, Kellyanne Conway is not working in a legal position in Trump’s White House. She is Counselor to the President, not White House Counsel. The President and Conway may choose, for his protection, to treat her non-legal policy advisor position as a legal representation, but the fact remains that she is not providing legal advice and services, only policy-related ones. Now, lawyers can violate D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4, Misconduct, while not engaged in the practice of law, but unless the conduct involved is criminal or displays “moral turpitude” sufficient to call into question the lawyer’s fitness to practice the likelihood of the conduct being regarded as sanctionable by the Bar is vanishingly slim.

From everything I can determines, Conway, though she is a member of the New Jersey Bar and an inactive (she needs to pay back dues and take my mandatory D.C. Bar ethics course before she can practice) member of the District Bar, has not practiced law in more than 20 years. She has been a pollster, an activist, a flack and TV personality as well as candidate  Trump’s campaign manager, but none of her professional profiles refer to her as a lawyer. The complaint alleges that Conway “engage(d) in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation” in breach of D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4 (c), and did so while not engaged in the practice of law.  In order to bring down the wrath of the Bar, such conduct must be extremely serious, criminal or bordering on it. Rule 8.3 “limits the reporting obligation to those offenses that a self–regulating profession must vigorously endeavor to prevent.” What kind of non-law-related “offenses” must “a self–regulating profession…vigorously endeavor to prevent”?  It is well established that questionable statements that an individual with a law license utters in the course of political activity and advocacy is not such conduct. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “The President Is Right About The Mainstream News Media, And It Can’t Handle The Truth, Part III: The Tweet”

sailfishReader Greg boldly ventures into the perilous waters of distinguishing among what the news media calls lies, especially when they involve President Trump. His piece is also a fortuitous companion to this post, which I was completing when his appeared.

Here is Greg’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The President Is Right About The Mainstream News Media, And It Can’t Handle The Truth, Part III: The Tweet”:

The media coverage of “Donald Trump’s lies,” and most recently of the stupid Sweden controversy, conflates several different categories of statements and treats them all as being equally serious. For example, let’s suppose Trump tells this story at one of his rallies:

“I was out on the boat – last week with Bill Clinton – just off the coast a few miles away from Mar a Lago – one of the great resorts of the world, by the way — and pulled in a 9-foot sailfish, the biggest sailfish ever caught. The biggest in those waters. It was a hell of a fight – gigantic fish almost pulled me overboard, one of the hands grabbed me and saved me really, kept me from going in – (Trump mimes himself almost falling into the water and being pulled back, to comic effect) – a Cuban immigrant by the way, a legal one and America can be proud of him.”

And let’s suppose that the next day the New York Times prints a front page story hysterically denouncing this story as a lie. When we read the article, we may find out that Trump’s story was any of the following:

1. An outright lie: Trump has never caught a sailfish in his life.

2. An exaggeration to make Trump look better: The exaggeration may be relatively slight (the sailfish wasn’t 9 feet long; it was 8 feet, which is still an awfully big fish) or gross (it was a 4-foot sailfish, which is puny).

3. An enhancement to make the story more entertaining: Trump is actually a terrific fisherman. He didn’t need any help and never came close to falling into the water.

4. A statement that Trump made without regard to its truth or falsity: The hand has a Hispanic accent but Trump has no idea whether he is a Cuban immigrant or not. He added that part to the story because it supports one of his pet policy positions. Actually, the hand is an American citizen born in Miami, and he is of Guatemalan ancestry, not Cuban.

5. An ignorant, lazy but honest error: The captain flattered Trump by telling him that his sailfish was the biggest ever caught in those waters, and Trump never bothered to look up the facts in a reputable reference source. Actually Trump’s fish was a full foot short of the record.

6. Mis-remembered: The way he remembers it, he was fishing off Mar a Lago that day, but actually he was 1,000 miles away, off the coast of the Dominican Republic.

7. True, but Trump’s thoughts are so much faster than his tongue and his syntax is so garbled that the story gives a false impression: Trump actually caught the fish 5 years ago while fishing with Tiger Woods. Trump didn’t mean he caught the fish with Bill Clinton last week. He meant that he just now had a fleeting thought about an interview with Bill Clinton that he saw last week on TV, which reminds him that he once read in the New York Post that Clinton had gone deep-sea fishing with Ron Burkle, which reminds him of his own triumph with the sailfish. As Trump so often does, he was sharing his train of thought, in a disjointed way, with his audience. The surprising thing is that, often, his gestures and tone of voice convey his meaning clearly to his friendly audience, even though it is completely lost on a hostile press and in transcripts.

8. Either true or false, depending on your point of view: Trump was actually fishing near the Bahamas, 100 miles away from Mar a Lago, which he considers pretty close but the Times considers pretty far. The Times accuses Trump of lying in order to attract fishermen to his resort at Mar a Lago and boost his own profits.

9. True, but said in a context that creates an unfortunate impression, at least in the mind of a hostile press: After the sailfish story, Trump segues into a story about the movie, Jaws, where the protagonist shot a great white shark with a high-powered rifle (“a great, great thing,” says Trump, “and there are a lot of good people in this country – second amendment, NRA – Obama and Clinton wouldn’t let you shoot a shark like that — but now that I’m president you and good Americans like you will have the freedom to do that”), which leads the Times to accuse Trump of shooting sailfish and supporting people who shoot endangered great white sharks and other species of endangered fish and possibly having shot endangered fish himself and maybe even having shot endangered whales and dolphins.

10. True in every detail, but the Times is calling it a lie anyway: The Times says the story creates the false impression that the fishing is good near Mar a Lago, which Trump is implying in order to boost profits from his resort, but the truth is that big sailfish over 7 feet long are rare in those waters and Trump’s record-setting catch was a fluke. Continue reading

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Weekend Ethics Alarms Challenge: What’s The Best Headline For This Story?

turning-tables

[The winning headline will be added to the post, and an appropriate graphic will replace “the turning table.”]

April Ryan, a reporter for American Urban Radio Networks,  accused White House aide Omarosa Manigault of telling her, during a tense exchange at the White House last week,
that Ryan  she was among a group of reporters on whom the White House is keeping dossiers with negative information. Ryan claimed that she was  “physically intimidated” by Manigault, and described Manigault’s behavior as threatening enough to be “Secret Serviceable,” implying  that it warranted intervention by law enforcement officers. The accusation was widely circulated on the web as an example of the President’s “Nazi” conduct toward the news media.

Manigault denied Ryan’s accusations, and called them “fake news.” Ah, but now we learn that a White House media employee recorded the encounter, and the recording backs up Omarosa.

Ryan, amusingly, is outraged and claiming to be a victim of a surreptitious  recording  she never consented to. “This is about her trying to smear my name. This is freaking Nixonian.” April says she may sue… for slander?

Here is one more example of how smug and self-righteous journalists are also often as ignorant as a pile of dog collars. Making such a recording is legal under D.C. law, which has a “one-party consent” law that recordings  if one person in the conversation consents. As for a slander suit, how would that work? The tape would be evidence that April Ryan slandered Manigault, not the other way around.

Ryan claims that the tape must have been altered. Sure she does. The Washington Post and other sources report that other journalists on the scene do not back Ryan’s account of the argument between the two women, and nobody heard anything about “dossiers.”

Manigault told reporters that White House media staff regularly record interviews between reporters and officials. “We do it all the time,” she said. “When you come into [the press staff’s offices], you’re on the record.”

When you know that the entire mainstream news media is out to get you, and that there are reporters like Ryan, taping everything makes perfect sense.

Nah, the news media isn’t “the opposition party.” Nah, it’s not biased–whatever would give you that idea?

(Kudos to the Washington Post for reporting this media bias smoking gun, incidentally.)

______________________

Pointer: Powerline

Source: Washington Post

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

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From The “You Keep Using That Word…I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means” Files: A Cheap Shot From The Heroes

Many conservatives are cheering this open letter from 14 Medal of Honor recipients to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.):

Dear Sen. Richard Blumenthal,

You recently called upon your Senate colleagues to subject Judge Neil Gorsuch’s record to “extreme vetting,” questioning both his qualification and biography. The Senate certainly has the right and obligation to closely review any nominee for the United States Supreme Court. Conversely, it is our right as Americans and veterans to scrutinize your hypocrisy in doing so.

We are veterans of the Vietnam War. We fought alongside our brothers in arms, many of whom died or were gravely injured there. We saw the treatment meted out on us and our fellow military personnel upon our return, yet we never questioned our commitment to our nation’s freedom. But perhaps more relevant to this discussion is that we know you were not there with us.

The fact you repeatedly and consistently claimed to have served in Vietnam is a gross case of stolen valor in our opinion. You obtained at least five military deferments between 1965 and 1970, at least two of which were seemingly political favors to you so that you could avoid joining us in a war zone. Here are just a few examples where it appears that you have chosen to buttress your political resume by shamefully inflating your record of military service:

In 2003, you apparently stated, “When we returned [from Vietnam], we saw nothing like this [a public outpouring of support for deployed military personnel].”

In 2008, the New York Times reported you said, “We have learned something important since the days I served in Vietnam …”

At a Vietnam War memorial in 2008, it is reported you stated, “I served during the Vietnam era … I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even the physical abuse.”

We recognize that military service of any kind is valuable to the protection of our nation’s freedom. There is no shame in engaging in “Toys for Tots” campaigns, recycling efforts, or assisting in the improvement or construction of various facilities, which appears to be a fair description of the bulk of your duties during the Vietnam War.

What is offensive to those who fought in a most brutal conflict, some of us who were captured and tortured by our enemy, is any comparison of those most brutal experiences to the ones of people like you who never even sniffed the air in Vietnam.

The letter’s description of the Senator’s lies before being elected a U.S. Senator is accurate. The fact that he did not withdraw from consideration when those lies were exposed, that the Democratic Party allowed him to stand for election anyway, and worst of all, that Connecticut voters debased their state and the U.S. Senate by electing him demonstrated the creeping progressive ethics rot among liberals that has only worsened since.

However, Blumenthal was not engaging in hypocrisy by calling for extreme the judge’s vetting. It would have been hypocrisy if he proclaimed that no public official who has inflated his biography or faked credentials is worthy of public office. That’s not what he said, however. Indeed, if there is anyone qualified to testify to the importance of vetting the qualifications of apparently qualified nominees, it’s Sen. Blumenthal.

No, the letter is an ad hominem attack, and the ethics breach has been committed by its signatories. If they have an objection to his call for “extreme vetting, ” they should rebut it on the merits. Instead, they attacked the individual rather than his argument. That is the essence of ad hominem. Their attack was “to the man” rather than to his position.

The two terms for unethical conduct most often used inaccurately to sustain accusations are, ironically, hypocrisy and ad hominem attacks. You don’t often see both misused in the same matter, though.

______________________

Pointer: Washington Examiner

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: Robert Reich

“I was there for part of last night, and I know what I saw and those people were not Berkeley students. Those people were outside agitators. I have never seen them before.There’s rumors that they actually were right-wingers. They were a part of a kind of group that was organized and ready to create the kind of tumult and danger you saw that forced the police to cancel the event. So Donald Trump, when he says Berkeley doesn’t respect free speech rights, that’s a complete distortion of the truth.”

—-Former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, spinning himself silly to allow his leftist-colleagues to duck accountability for the Berkeley rioting.

Nope, I don't believe it.

Nope, I don’t believe it.

Robert Reich isn’t a supposed to be a political hack. He’s a scholar and a former Cabinet member. Yet he felt it necessary to abandon all logic and honesty in order to try to shift blame for a leftist anti-Trump, anti-speech riot on a major college campus onto its targets. This might be good news: Reich is no fool, and maybe the Angry Left is beginning to realize that its tactics have backfired. So now it is just lying and blame-shifting. That’s an improvement. Sort of.

Reich’s statement is unbelievable on its face. He teaches at Berkeley, but does he really expect anyone to believe that in the middle of a night-time riot, he was in a position to recognize individual rioters and render an informed judgment regarding whether they were students? The school has more than 38,000 students! It is impossible for Reich to know all of them, and during the chaos of a riot at night, it is highly unlikely that he could even distinguish the students in his own classes. His  unequivocal statement that none of the rioters were students is a false one: he cannot know that. He cannot know they were “outside agitators.” He cannot know that he had never seen them before, especially since many of them were wearing masks.

Then he says that there are rumors that they were “right-wingers,” and in the next sentence implies the truth of those rumors. You know, I’ve heard rumors for years that Robert Reich is really one of the Seven Dwarfs, escaped from the fairy tale, like in “Enchanted.” The smart money is on “Doc.” However, since there isn’t a shred of evidence that this rumor is true, and thus suggesting otherwise would be unfair and dishonest, I would never, never state that Reich is close associate of Snow White and Dopey. Reich, however, feels constrained by no such principles, being, apparently, a devotee of the false dialectic employed by leftists for a century or so.

Boy, did I get sick of arguing with people like him is college. Continue reading

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