Ethics Observations On The Megyn Kelly “Blackface” Fiasco

You know, one could make a strong argument that the misadventures of a richly compensated  morning TV host is not worth thinking about, arguing about, or even paying attention to. The problem is that in trivial events vital enlightenment often reside. We ignore the Megyn Kelly mess at great risk. There are many ethics lessons there.

The Megyn Kelly fiasco started long before her self-immolation over the now-radioactive topic of Halloween costumes, but let’s begin there. In case you missed it (that is, you have a life), Kelly was using her special segment of the “Today Show” to moderate a round-table discussion of how, as she put it,  “the costume police are cracking down” on Halloween costumes. The former Fox News host and Donald Trump irritant decided to emulate the President and blunder into a political correctness minefield.

“What is racist?” she mused. “You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was O.K., as long as you were dressing up as a character.” Then she talked about the travails of Luann de Lesseps, a member of the cast of the Bravo reality show “The Real Housewives of New York,” who was criticized for dressing up as Diana Ross, complete with skin-tone.  Megyn found the criticism  passing strange.

By the end of the week, Kelly had issued a tearful on-air apology and others on social media. She had been condemned by “Today” colleagues and NBC News chairman Andrew Lack, went even further at a midday staff meeting, saying,“There is no other way to put this, but I condemn those remarks.There is no place on our air or in this workplace for them.”

Then NBC announced that “Megyn Kelly Today” was cancelled, and so was Kelly’s 19 million dollar a year employment, subject to the result of negotiations between her lawyers and NBC’s.

Observations: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Megyn Kelly, William Saroyan, Ethics, Me, And Us: A Rueful Essay” (#2)

The second of the Comments of the Day sparked by my musings on Megyn Kelly’s descision to move from a job where she excelled to a completely different assignment at which, at least so far, she is crashing and burning like the Hindenburg. The first, by  Extradimensional Cephalopod, was very different, an abstract analysis of the phenomenon that bedevils Kelly, and many of us. The second, a personal account of the dilemma in action, is no less enlightening, but very different.

The comment also reminded me that I have never posted about the Japanese concept of Ikigai, and I should have. There is no English equivalent for the word: ikigai  combines the Japanese words ikiru, meaning “to live”, and kai, meaning “the realization of what one hopes for.” Together the words encompass the concept of “a reason to live” or the idea of having a purpose in life. Ikigai also invokes a mental and spiritual state where individuals feel that their lives have value—to them, to loved ones, to society.

Ikigai odes not spring from actions we are forced to take, but from natural, voluntary and spontaneous actions. In his article titled  “Ikigai — jibun no kanosei, kaikasaseru katei” (“Ikigai: the process of allowing the self’s possibilities to blossom”) Japanese wrter Kobayashi Tsukasa says that “people can feel real ikigai only when, on the basis of personal maturity, the satisfaction of various desires, love and happiness, encounters with others, and a sense of the value of life, they proceed toward self-realization.”

Sounds simple.

It isn’t.

Here is Alex’s Comment of the Day on the post, Megyn Kelly, William Saroyan, Ethics, Me, And Us: A Rueful Essay:

This topic is close to my heart, so time for some confessions and public reflections.

As I’ve previously mentioned I’m a software engineer, over a decade of experience, and modesty aside, a darned good one at what I do. The main areas of work I’ve been involved in are speech recognition, accessibility and development runtimes (think along the lines of the Java runtime). It was not necessarily world transforming work, but it had an impact and passionate following by our users. Pay was good if slightly low for the experience I had, and as of late I was getting tired of the work and wanted to try something new – also, a reasonable salary increase was not going to hurt.

So I start my job hunt, both internally and externally. At the end it comes down to two very good offers: One working for a social media giant with at a still-to-be-determined role with extremely good pay and no clear route for advancement. The other working closer to hardware (I’m an EE but never worked on it professionally) with lower pay (still an improvement over my previous job) at a clearly defined role with an advancement development plan and with the goal of putting people in space.

Putting it like this it sounds like a home run, but with a family in the line – I’m a single earner with three kids – the financial sides are a big consideration. There were so many things to balance: money, prospects for advancement, happiness, commute time, personal fulfillment, and yes, societal value of my work. It was not an easy decision, there were difficult conversations with my wife and even more than a year later some days I wonder if this was the right call (I went with the space company…Yay!) Continue reading

Megyn Kelly, William Saroyan, Ethics, Me, And Us: A Rueful Essay

I have been following Megyn Kelly’s ongoing career crash with interest and reflection. She spurned a more lucrative contract from Fox News to jump to NBC, where she was made the star of a “Today Show” shake-up. Critics have been brutal; ratings have plunged. Reportedly celebrities refuse to be booked for interviews with her–they are all progressives, you see, and fear they will get cooties from Megyn, or something.  Conservatives are mocking her as a turncoat getting her just desserts, and the Left already hated her. She has no constituency now; literally none.

You never know; Megyn might rebound. Nevertheless, she is a cautionary tale with ethics implications. Kelly has an unusual set of skills and talents.  She is actress/model beautiful in face and physique; she is very intelligent; she has a great broadcast voice. She is a lawyer as well as a journalist, articulate, and has guts. There are many paths she could take that would make use of her abilities and achieve fame, wealth, popularity or power.

This is fortunate fortunate, but it also is a trap. Choices involve the risk of error, failure, lost opportunities and disappointment. Those who have a limited number of skills also have a limited number of choices, or none at all. There is some serenity in this. My entire professional life has been spent jumping back and forth, in and out among the many areas that interest and engage me, and in which I have had some measurable talent and success. In the end, and I am far closer to the end than the beginning, mine will be substantially a life of underachievement and waste, in great part because I never made a committed choice, or made the wrong ones.

My heroes have always been those remarkable, versatile people who somehow contrived to make major contributions to culture, society and civilization in multiple fields. Theodore Roosevelt, a historian, naturalist, and political leader. Clarence Darrow, a lawyer, writer, and philosopher. Hedy Lamarr, the sexy actress and pin-up who developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes, a bomb-sight,and whose inventions are now incorporated into modern Wi-Fi, CDMA, and Bluetooth technology. Paul Winchell, the popular ventriloquist, kids show host, and voice actor (Tigger!) who also invented medical equipment. Marlene Dietrich, who acted, sang, spied, and defied Hitler.  John Glenn, a fighter pilot, astronaut, and U.S. Senator.  Richard Gil, a tenured Harvard Professor of Economics, and a principal bass with the Metropolitan Opera Company. Michael Crichton, a  novelist, film director and MD, with the gift of philological insights. Ronald Reagan, a movie star and a President of the United States. But their path is perilous. Continue reading

A Popeye And An Unethical Quote Of The Month For The Times’ Lindy West

Popeye’s Quote:

“That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands no more!”

Lindy’s Quote:

“[Megyn] Kelly happily trafficked in racist tropes for profit…asking repeatedly whether the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown were necessarily related to race..

Nope. I can’t let this pass, and will never let this pass again. The context doesn’t matter: Lindy West’s statement above is a lie, and deliberately perpetuate a falsehood to mislead Times readers, or perhaps to encourage them to mislead others. The New York Times editors should not allow lies the paper’s pages, not in news stories, and not from pundits. West can, if she chooses, state the factually untenable opinion that she believes the deaths of Garner and Brown were based on race. She cannot state that the position that their deaths were not based on race is a “racist trope,” which requires facts and evidence showing that either or both deaths were race-related.

There is no such evidence in either case. None, Not a shred, not an iota. Lindy West is calling Megyn Kelly a racist based on an assumption she holds because it is cant within her circles despite no evidence whatsoever. That is unethical punditry, and no responsible newspaper should allow such falsity in print. Continue reading

From The “Why We Can’t Trust The News Media” Files: The Megyn Kelly- Alex Jones Interview Fiasco

Here is the sequence of events:

1. Newly minted NBC “star” Megyn Kelly announced that she would be interviewing infamous right wing political troll and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on a segment of her new show.

Jones is a fringe media figure and a proven liar, but he has been cited positively by President Trump, and has successfully caused some wide-spread comtoversy and offense, such as when he claimed that the Newtown massacre was a hoax. There is nothing wrong with interviewing such figures; indeed, it is important to interview them. provided ethical journalism standards apply.

Unfortunately, as this episode demonstrates, journalists no longer know what those standards are.

2. In order to persuade Jones to agree to the interview, Kelly promised him—Jones had a tape—that he would be treated fairly. Note: when you tell someone they will be treated fairly in order to have him trust you, your definition of “fair” must be his definition of “fair.”  If he is thinking, “Ah! She will be neutral rather than adversarial, and will not be looking for gotchas!,” but she meant, “It’s fair that I fillet you like a trout, you bastard!” then the interview subject has been deceived.

3. The parents of the victims of the Newtown shooting, as well as their sympathizers and allies, protested the interview, as I wrote about here, saying that NBC was giving Jones a platform. Sympathy and grief are not excuses for censorship. The fact that the parents hate Jones suggests that they shouldn’t watch him be interviewed. They should not seek to interfere with my right to see how he presents himself, and companies (like J.P Morgan) that responded to the threatened boycott by pulling their ads told me that they will go as the winds blow, no matter how totalitarian the direction it might be.

Good to know. To hell with them.

4. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking of progressives with muddled values,  wanted NBC to pull the segment.. The NBC affiliate in Hartford refused to air the episode because the “wounds of that day that have yet to heal.”

Yes, by all means, journalists should never report news or do stories that might upset anyone.

5. Showing the integrity of a sneak-thief, NBC and Kelly furiously re-cut the interview and added a segment in which some Newtown parents could attack Jones.

6. Before the interview aired, Alex Jones released audiotape showing how egregiously Kelly misled him.

7. The interview aired last night, and reviewers were satisfied that Kelly was “tough enough” with Jones, and signaled with her voice, facial expressions, tone and questions that she thought he was scum. “Short of waterboarding him,” one critic wrote, “I don’t know what more Kelly could have done to expose Jones’ dark methods.”

Ugh.

Ethics Observations: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/13/17

1.  The controversy over the Central Park “Julius Caesar” casting Donald Trump–his stage clone, really—as Caesar continues to be ignorantly argued. What’s worse, Fox News constantly calling the Shakespearean classic an “assassination play” (it’s not, not even close), or people who really would love to see Trump assassinated arguing that there’s a double standard because some professional productions of  “Julius Caesar” in recent years cast a black actor as the targeted emperor? Does anyone for a second believe that if a high-profile theatrical production depicted a character as clearly intended to symbolize Obama as the New York City production styles its Caesar as Trump being assassinated in a scene like the one below, there would not have been equivalent, indeed greater outrage?

The most cited production with a black, modern business-suited Caesar had an actor with a shaved head playing the role, clearly signalling that this was NOT Barack Obama. This, however, is “Donald Trump”:

My question is: Does the audience cheer? I bet they do, and I bet that’s exactly what the director wanted. I support the production, and reject efforts to pressure donors into pulling support. Theater is often political, and outrageous, and should be. But the play’s defenders who cite versions that evoked a black leader as equivalent are arguing that people are more upset at a faux Trump assassination than they would have been if “Obama” were slaughtered in Central Park, and that is absurd.

2. Another looming boycott is the effort to punish NBC’s Megyn Kelly for interviewing InfoWars’ Alex Jones, the professional conspiracy theorist and right-wing liar. Because he famously suggested that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax—an instant IQ test for anyone deciding to ever pay attention to this jerk again—Sandy Hook parents and their allies are condemning NBC and Kelly for “giving him a platform,” and have succeeded in getting one sponsor, JP Morgan, to drop its ads. How long before both ends of the political spectrum start routinely pushing boycotts of any journalists who “give a platform” to someone their “side” has pronounced as evil?  The Sandy Hook victims’ families continue to abuse the sympathy their tragedy evoked by using it to attack core rights using appeals to emotion and little else. Some quotes from the Washington Post story: Continue reading

A Proposal For The 2016 Campaign Coverage: Broadcast News Reporters Should Just State Up Front That They Plan On Warping Facts, Punditry And Interviews In Favor Of One Party Or The Other

Kelly and Trump

After all, they are doing it so consistently and blatantly already. Why not be transparent about it?

Case Study 1: CNN Host Brooke Baldwin

On  Baldwins’ “CNN Newsroom” this week, Trump supporter Gina Loudon was talking about the New York Times report on Donald Trump’s dubious conduct with women. The Trump flack brought up Bill Clinton’s  $850,000 settlement payment to Paula Jones for allegedly sexually harassing her. Baldwin cut Loudon off, saying, “Okay, let’s not go there.”

Wait—why not go there? The issue raised by the Times involves Presidential and leadership standards. The Times’ position during Clinton’s administration was that this was “personal conduct” and irrelevant to the Presidency. Is it or isn’t it?

The reason Baldwin doesn’t want to “go there” is that she, like so many of her CNN colleagues,  is a virtual pro-Hillary Clinton operative masquerading as a reporter, and tilts the content of her show accordingly. Later, Baldwin proved it: After Loudon concluded by noting that Clinton should have spoken out in defense of women her husband had abused if she was the champion of victims of sexual abuse that she claims to be,  Baldwin said,

“I think the Clinton camp — and, listen, I would say this either way, just to be fair to both of them — but I think the Clinton camp would point to, you know, her resume of lifting women up through the years.”

Yes, they would say that, Brooke, and that would be a dodge and an evasion, which, if they said it on a competent and non-partisan news broadcast, the host would be obligated to reply, “That isn’t responsive. Is Mrs. Clinton an advocate for women, or will she support their abusers if it’s politically beneficial to her?

Instead, you’re giving the evasive Clinton spin yourself! Why is that?

Because CNN, with the sole courageous exception of  Jake Tapper, is all in for Hillary, and will distort journalism standards and ethics as necessary to elect her.

Case Study 2: Fox News Host Megyn Kelly
Continue reading