Unethical Quote of the Month: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow

“Yes, this has happened to a smaller degree before. In 1994, in the first mid-term election after the last Democratic president was elected, we got a slate of candidates that included Helen Chenoweth of Idaho and Steve Stockman of Texas. These two were so close to the militia movement in this country that Mr. Stockman actually received advance notice that the Oklahoma City bombing was going to happen.”

—-Rachel Maddow, rising MSNBC star, attacking the current slate of anti-big government Republicans and Tea Party stalwarts.

As I have mentioned here before, when the going gets tough, the tough get unethical. As the certainty of a Red Tide washing over Congress, the Senate and the state houses becomes more inevitable with each passing day, frustrated partisans in the blogosphere and news media are lashing out in frustration, allowing their commentary to become even more shrill and their respect for essentials like facts and fairness to shrink to the vanishing point.

Maddow is an especially depressing case in point. She is a talented television personality and a sharp analyst, but her passionate progressive leanings sometimes overwhelm her professionalism, and this time, she crashed over all ethical lines. Continue reading

Politics, Ethics, and the Idiot Problem

Kim Lehman, who is one of Iowa’s two national Republican Committee members, responded to Politico’s report last week about the large and, oddly, increasing number of Americans who believe that President Obama is a Muslim, with this tweet:

“@politico You’re funny. They must pay you a lot to protect Obama. BTW, he personally told the muslims that he is a muslim. Read his lips.

When Lehman was asked by the Des Moines Register what speech she was referring to, she cited an Obama speech in Cairo last summer in which he reached out to Muslims “to seek a new beginning.” In that speech, Obama made no comment about being Muslim. In fact, he said he was a  a Christian, saying,

“…Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I’m a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith. As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.”

Never mind that, Lehman said; the speech still “just had the appearance that he was aligning himself with the Muslims.” Continue reading

The Unethical Character Assassination of Albert Gore, Jr.

Not one but two celebrities have recently had their public image and reputation battered by the publishing of police reports that they had been accused of sexual misconduct in alleged incidents that could not be confirmed sufficiently for the police to bring charges. One was New York Mets ace pitcher Johan Santana, who was already battling uncharacteristic ineffectiveness on the mound. The other was former Vice-President Al Gore, who also has more than enough problems in his life: such as a shattered marriage, a reeling climate change policy campaign, and the lingering memory that he received the most votes in a Presidential election yet somehow never got to live in the White House. Santana’s reputation will survive if he recovers the location on his fast ball. Al Gore, however, is genuinely and seriously harmed by the claims of a masseuse who says that Gore attempted to turn her professional massage into a forced sexual encounter. Continue reading

Gawker Asks: “Why Were the Democrats So Ethical?”

One could hardly find a more illuminating window into the unethical political and media culture festering in this country than to read today’s “scoop” on (yecch!) Gawker, the celebrity-stalking, rumor-mongering website that makes TMZ look like The Economist.  Its breathless lead:

“Did you know that Scott Brown—the new star Republican Senator—was accused of harassing a female campaign worker in 1998? We have the documents to prove it. Did the Democrats blow an opportunity to keep their 60th Senate seat?Continue reading

Everyday Ethics: The Dilemma of the Tardy Warning

Not for the first time in my life, the Dilemma of the Tardy Warning is causing me sleepless nights.

By random chance I encountered a gentleman who worked in my field, and we had a phone conversation. He was pleasant and flattering; his projects sounded both interesting and like possible complements to my own. We exchanged e-mails, and he sent me some materials. I said that I would contact him to set up a face-to-face meeting, and meant it.

Then I casually mentioned him to some colleagues, who reacted as if I had announced a planned liaison with the Marquis de Sade. Continue reading

From Tweet to Blog to Lie: Palin’s Laughs

Sadly, this is how the web works.

Sarah Palin was guest on Jay Leno’s return to NBC’s “Tonight Show,” and inexplicably did something of a stand-up comic routine. One of the audience members was a non-admirer of Palin named Michael Stinson, who didn’t think she was funny. After the taping he sent out a “tweet” on his Twitter account that read, “Listen for me laughing, no one else is.” Stinson says he was shocked when he saw the broadcast, as Palin’s jokes seemed to be getting big laughs. He sent out another Tweet that read, “I know sound. And it’s my opinion that audio portions of Sarah Palin’s March 2nd appearance on Jay Leno’s Tonight show were added or amplified, edited before broadcast to make it appear that Sarah Palin was more welcome than she was.” Continue reading

Drudge Gets Careless, and the Right Bites

The conservative blogosphere and Rightish talk radio hosts were all in a lather this morning: according to Matt Drudge’s “Drudge Report,” President Obama’s physicians “recommended” “moderation of alcohol intake”! What could that mean, they asked breathlessly, then with a snicker or two, except that “Mr. Perfect” has been hitting the sauce, raiding the liquor cabinet, and having one-too-many snorts of the ol’ hooch? After all, the doctors were telling the President to “moderate” his drinking habits, like you tell a hot-head to moderate his temper. Scoop! The President drinks too much! Continue reading