From The “Trump-Hate Disabling News Media Ethics Alarms” Files: The Washington Post “Kids Chorus”

For those inexplicably loyal fans of the news media who said to themselves, “Well, CNN is an exception. The other respected news organizations will never let the President push them to completely alienate the public’s trust,” here is the hard, cruel truth: you are dead wrong. Open your eyes.

Witness the Washington Post, which somehow thought that it would enhance its reputation as a fair, independent, responsible and objective news source by recruiting a group of children to mock President Trump by singing his tweets. This was a Washington Post promotion, now. The Post believes that its readers want to get their news from a newspaper that gratuitously ridicules the President of the United States.  Maybe they are right. Such readers, however, are not looking for facts, or objective analysis. Those readers are looking to feed their confirmation bias.

At “The Hill,” reporter Jonathan Easley tweeted: “WaPo getting kids to mockingly sing Trump’s tweets seems needlessly antagonistic and a dumb move right now.” 

Gee, ya think?

I’m trying to imagine the long list of broken ethics alarms that had to malfunction for the Post to let this get all the way through conception, to production, to publication. Nobody in the chain of command said, “Yeah, that’s hilarious, but let’s leave this kind of thing to Jimmy Kimmel, okay? We’re a newspaper.” Nobody. Nobody thought that this would simply confirm what media critics have been saying about toxic anti-Trump bias. Nobody thought about how a graphic demonstration of this mindset at the paper would undercut any claim that the Post is capable of fair reporting on an elected leader it would show such disrespect to just to make a promotional pitch. Nobody. Continue reading

Marilyn Mosby Secures Her Reputation As One Of The Most Shamelessly Unethical U.S. Prosecutors Of All Time

The other shoe dropped: prosecutors dropped all remaining charges against three Baltimore police officers accused in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray,  following the acquittals of three other officers  by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams. He was expected to preside over the remaining trials, and, as the Bible says, the writing was on the wall.

Make no mistake: this result was completely and entirely the result of the incompetent, unethical conduct of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who vaingloriously announced charges against the officers in the immediate wake of rioting in Baltimore, following the dictates of a mob. She did this without sufficient investigation, evidence or, despite the ethical requirements of her office, probable cause. She had the city of Baltimore agree to a large damages settlement for Gray’s family before any of the officers were tried, prejudicing their cases. She spent millions on the prosecutions, and shattered the lives of all six officers, and yet never made a case that justified any of it.

There are more unethical things that a prosecutor can do, and they certainly do them. Some prosecute individuals they know are innocent, which is a bit worse than prosecuting someone who might be guilty because a mob wants blood. Those unethical prosecutors, however, try to cover their tracks. Not Mosby: she’s proud of being unethical, because its the kind of unethical conduct that African-American activists think promotes justice. Justice is when someone pays with their life or liberty if an African American dies, regardless of law or evidence.  That’s the theory, anyway. Continue reading

Make America’s Children Props And Billboards Again! Or Rather, Let’s Not…

trump rally Westfield

I hate this.

Using children as props for adults to make their own political or commercial statements is unfair, demeaning and an abuse of power. Oh, maybe putting kids in T-shirts with messages they neither understand nor have consented to convey is not as bad as this exploitation of children for publicity value, perhaps, or this exploitation of kids by their parents, a website and a shameless comedian.  And I know that politicians using his own children as their clueless and unconsenting mouthpieces has a long and shameful history, with such landmarks as President Jimmy Carter trying to use his young daughter Amy as the agent of his own position during a Presidential debate with Ronald Reagan, to Ted Cruz’s employment of his daughters in a campaign video that inspired Washington Post political cartoonist Ann Telnaes to portray the little Cruz girls as monkeys.

Nevertheless, I do hate this stuff, and I’m calling for a cultural consensus that using children as billboards, mouthpeices or props for advocacy purposes, no matter what the cause or context, is wrong. I would like to see politicians, advocates, organizations and movements that use children in this manner pay a steep price in lost contributions and support, until the message is learned that the tactic will not be tolerated. I would like to see any parents who volunteer their kids for this demeaning duty to be properly and decisively shamed.

The photo above is an easy place to start; after all, this was at a Donald Trump appearance in Westfield, Indiana,  and a substantial percentage of the public hates Trump already.

It’s not like the kids are wearing shirts spelling out “GIVE PEACE A CHANCE,” though that would be equally unethical.

_________________

Pointer: Prof. Mike McGregor

Freddie Gray Prosecution Update: A Law Professor Formally Accuses The Unethical Prosecutor Of Being Unethical

finger-pointing

George Washington Law School Professor John F. Banzhaf III has filed an ethics  complaint against State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby with Maryland’s Attorney Grievance Commission. Banzhaf accuses Mosby in his 10-page complaint of breaching Maryland’s rules of professional conduct for lawyers, which requires that a prosecutor refrain from prosecuting a charge unless it is supported by probable cause, in her conflicted and incompetent prosecution of six police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray. The complaint also flags Mosby’s improper use of public statements to bias the administration of justice.

Good.

Of course he is right, as I have repeatedly explained here, here, here, here, and here. I assume there have been other complaints before this one, but he has made the issue a high profile one, and that’s excellent news.

Mosby has earned the Mike NiFong treatment: the unethical prosecutor in the Duke Lacrosse rape case was disbarred, briefly jailed, and sued. She is black, female, and a Democrat, and NiFong remains one of the very, very few prosecutors to be punished significantly for unethical conduct. I will be amazed if the commission does anything momentous or sufficient to discourage grandstanding prosecutors like Mosby in the future, even though such prosecutors are willing to ruin lives for political gain.

I hope I am wrong.

(But I’m not.)

Mistrial In The First Freddie Gray Trial: There’s No Way Out Of This Ethics Train Wreck

Judge Declares Mistrial In First Freddie Gray Trial

In Baltimore this week, a judge declared a mistrial in the case of Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter after jurors said they were deadlocked regarding all of the charges against him in the death of Freddie Gray. Porter, 26 and an African American, is the first of six police officers to be tried in Gray’s death. He has been charged with with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. Street protests began almost immediately.

Let’s review this disaster so far, shall we? Continue reading

The Most Unethical Prosecutor Of All: Baltimore’s Marilyn Mosby

Mosby

In a legal ethics seminar I taught this week for government attorneys, the vast majority of them voted that Marilyn Mosby’s vainglorious announcement of charges against six officers in the death of Freddie Gray was prosecutorial abuse, and a blatant violation of professional ethics rule 3.8, which directs that (this is the Maryland version)…

The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:

(a) refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause;


(e) except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused and exercise reasonable care to prevent an employee or other person under the control of the prosecutor in a criminal case from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under Rule 3.6 or this Rule.

Of course it was a breach of ethics, and an outrageous one. Her statement, which I discussed here, not only overstated her justification for bringing the charges, which were rushed and announced before a careful investigation was completed, it also stated that the officers were guilty, and worse, that the charges were being brought because the demonstrating and rioting protesters has demanded it. Mosby’s words suggested that she stood with the mob. Continue reading

A Particularly Dangerous Ethics Dunce Display: State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s Unethical Statement Regarding Charges In The Death Of Freddie Gray

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced today that the six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray  have been charged with criminal charges  second-degree murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, vehicular manslaughter , and misconduct in office. I have no comment on that: I haven’t seen the evidence. I will assume the charges are justified base on what evidence there is.

Nonetheless, Mosby’s announcement and related statements from  the steps of Baltimore’s War Memorial Building were unethical, and indeed  constituted a professional ethics breach:

  • Mosby said she told Gray’s family that “no one is above the law and I would pursue justice upon their behalf.” Unethical. Her client isn’t the family. Her client is the state. If the evidence appears too weak to get a conviction based on any new revelations, her duty to her client, which only requires justice, not justice for any party, would be to drop the case. Telling the family that she is working “on their behalf” is either a lie, or, if true, unethical. She is not their lawyer or the victim’s lawyer.
  • “I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace,'” she said. “Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.”

Ugh. Again the “on behalf of” misstatement. Worse, though, is “I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace.” What are we to take from this statement, other than the disgraceful admission that the indictment is in response to mob violence and threats of more? She may not say that. By saying it, she has undermined the rule of law. Prosecutors must not”hear” demands that a citizen be prosecuted, or not prosecuted. They are ethically obligated to ignore them, and do what the evidence dictates.

The demonstrators obviously got her meaning. Desmond Taylor, 29, shouted to the crowd,  “This day means that your actions bring consequences in Baltimore City.”

Imagine what else riots and arson might bring! Continue reading

What’s The Ethical Response To Giving Birth To A Mixed-Race Child You Didn’t Bargain For? If Only Abe Lincoln Was The Lawyer…

What does Abe have to do with a sperm bank mix-up in 2014? Read on...

What does Abe have to do with a sperm bank mix-up in 2014? Read on…

I can certainly sympathize with the plight of Jennifer Cramblett, the birthing half of a loving, and white, same-sex couple who sought the assistance of a sperm bank to conceive a child, and who ended up giving birth to a mixed-race baby girl because of the kind of clerical error that sets up movie comedies starring Adam Sandler or Cedric the Entertainer. This is like what happened to Chevy Chase in “Vacation,” when he ordered one car and had a different one arrive at the dealer’s months later. Well, the car was a lot worse, because it was ugly, but it drove fine. Well, let me think about that: lots of babies, even babies sired the usual way by attractive parents without alien sperm, are ugly. This baby wasn’t ugly: Cramblett says she’s beautiful. Has all ten fingers and toes. No apparent deformities.

Hmmm.

Maybe this situation is more like the cherry red Nova that got delivered as my first car, when I had ordered something else. I got a discount for going ahead and taking the Nova, and never regretted it: best, most reliable car I ever had, and I had it in the days when I was still having fun in cars.

Come to think of it, what’s Cramblett so upset about? She has a healthy, lovely child and a stable family. OK, that sperm bank owes her a refund, and maybe some “I’m sorry you got the wrong color” money. But would I not only sue the sperm bank for the lifetime of pain it had supposedly subjected me to by causing me to have a mixed race child, but also use the law suit to garner media fame? Of course not. There is no way to simultaneously claim that having a mixed-race daughter is a hardship worthy of substantial damages, and to argue that the race of her daughter doesn’t matter, because she is unconditionally loved.

The couple’s lawsuit against the sperm bank screams “Hey! This could be a jackpot for us!”  The couple’s lawsuit explains that Jennifer Cramblett was raised to accept stereotypical beliefs about blacks. It says she is culturally unprepared to raise a mixed-race child. It argues that their community is, in effect, bigoted, and that—get this—it’s hard to get their daughter’s curly hair cut. In other words, it’s just hell having a mixed-race daughter, but they love her very much and would never trade her for anything in the world.* Got that? Continue reading

The Triumph of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo

Ronaiah TuiasosopoIs, getting what he wants.

Ronaiah TuiasosopoIs, getting what he wants.

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the silly, sick man who hoaxed his alleged friend, Notre Dame star Matti Te’o, into a public humiliation that will shadow the rest of his life, has everything he wants now. “Dr. Phil” is featuring him on his show with a long interview—a match made in the stars, since Phil achieved his fame as a fake doctor, and Ronaiah his as a fake girlfriend to the most gullible college athlete in captivity. More interviews for the hoaxer will follow, with a book and movie deal near certainties. He behaved abominably, and now the American celebrity machine will reward him for it. I predict he’ll travel the same road as other bottom-feeders who have parlayed a lack of principles into fame, however brief.  Joey Buttafuoco. Jessica Hahn. Octomom Nadja Suleman.”Tanning Mom”Patricia Krentcil. Levi Johnston. They all were boosted to semi-star status by being slimy, foolish, or both, and Tuiasosopo fits right in. Continue reading

UPDATE: A Cynical Ethics Tale That Wasn’t So Cynical After All

In the recent Ethics Alarms post The Asperger’s Child, the Company With A Heart, and the Cheapskate Parents: A Cynical Ethics Tale, I expressed both ethical and credibility doubts about the heart-warming story of a little boy who was sent the out-of stock LEGO set he had saved to buy for two years, only to discover that it was no longer manufactured and could only be purchased at premium rates via collectors or online auction. The child’s joyful reaction when he opened the box containing the set sent to him as a gift by the toymaker was captured in a family video that subsequently went viral on YouTube.

I won’t rehash my analysis here; read the post. I questioned why the family wouldn’t just contribute the necessary funds to ensure that the child’s long effort to obtain the toy didn’t come to naught, and I expressed skepticism that LEGO’s generosity wasn’t part of a pre-arranged quid pro quo in exchange for the video, especially since the father is professional videographer, and the YouTube product functioned as a promotion for LEGO.

By purest coincidence, a personal friend here in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Jeff Westlake, is also a close personal friend of the Groccia family. He was privy to the events of the story as they unfolded, and relayed information to me about both the family and the events surrounding the YouTube video that were not evident in the media reports. Thanks to Jeff’s insight, I am now satisfied that the family’s decision to explore every avenue of obtaining the LEGO set was reasonable rather than penurious, and that there was no quid pro quo with LEGO.

I apologize for mistakenly impugning the Groccia’s motives and account in the episode. I don’t apologize for raising the ethical issues that I saw implicit in the media accounts. That’s my job, and provoking discussion and debate over the ethical or unethical conduct of public figures is why this blog exists. If a family is going to participate in making an occurrence in their lives the subject of news stories, features and blog posts, they cannot insist that all commentary be unequivocally positive. I thought the doubts I expressed were legitimate and fair; it happens that they were not borne out by the facts.

Mr. Groccia was offended, understandably, and not so understandably, decided to respond here with, first, an anonymous comment noting that my “foil hat must be too tight as it appears to be impeding your cognitive abilities.” I didn’t know who the author was, and informed him via the email; address accompanying the comment that I would post his remarks if 1) I had a real name, as the Comment Policies require,  and 2) if the screen name he used was not a commercial website, since this would lead to the comment being spammed. He responded that he “knew” I wouldn’t have the “spine” to print his comment, which is manifestly not the case. I told him that I would be happy to publish a more thorough account by him, and would retract my suspicions if I was persuaded by it. Instead. Mr. Groccia chose to send a series of alternately insulting and threatening e-mails, none of which were substantive, and all of which served to reinforce my doubts. There the matter would have laid, except for the intervention of Jeff Westlake. I’m grateful to him for setting the record straight.