Tag Archives: rumors

The Washington Post’s Very Bad, Very Revealing Day: How Often Does This Have To Happen Before Journalists Decide Their Bias Is Making Them Stupid…And Untrustworthy?

Yesterday, the Washington Post, one of the three alleged standard-bearers of U.S. print journalism, published gossip and lies as news, got caught and humiliated..twice!.., and again illustrated vividly why the distinction between hoax stories, what the mainstream media condemns as “fake news,'” and their own false reporting due to incompetence and bias, is illusory.

First, the Post published a weird and alarming story about how Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was behaving like a sultan and ordering subordinates to lower their gaze in his presence:

“Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact”

This, of course, sparked widespread ridicule by the Left’s bloggers, commentators, journalists and other tweeters, despite the fact that no sources were named to back up the claim. We have here an example of confirmation bias at its most foolish,  on the part of the reporter, the editor, the paper, and the eager partisan bigots who think businessmen are monsters and the Trump administration is made up of freaks and creeps.  The Huffington Post happily published a collection of celebrities, politicians and random social media users reacting to the  story, including Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu , who said he found the article “disturbing.”

So do I. I find it disturbing that the Post, like the New York Times, cannot be trusted to check out inflammatory slurs against public official before declaring them facts. Note that the quote says the diplomats SAY they have not met him, but that some HAVE been instructed not to make eye contact. The Post stated what sounds like obvious holdover-staff rumor-mongering and sabotage as truth, opening the door for widespread contempt and disrespect of the Secretary of State without justification. Yes, that’s disturbing.

It was fake news. I didn’t believe it. I assumed this was the Post’s anti-Trump bias once again seeping into its deteriorating organizational brain. To his credit, Associated Press reporter Mike Lee immediately called foul, B.S., and fake news. Lee said that he had heard the allegation about employees being forced to avert their gaze in the presence of the Secretary of State two weeks before the Post’s story was published, and after checking into the claim,  determined that it was a rumor without basis.

“It’s compelling gossip. I have looked him  in the eyes and not turned to stone. At least not yet…This is not true and people repeating it are making it more difficult to address very real issues.”

When challenged to back up his statement that the story was false, Lee replied,

“Because I have covered State since 1999. Because I know people who didn’t start in 2009 [that is, Obama era partisans].”

Can anyone defend this Post sliming as anything but biased hackery?

But wait, there’s more! Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy

Infowars’ Alex Jones, Purveyor Of The Most Untrustworhy Political Website North Of “The News Nerd,” Provides One Of The Most Disingenuous Apologies Imaginable

A few stipulations:

1. Anyone who for a second thought it was anything more than a bad spoof that John Podesta and Hillary Clinton were engaged in a child sex ring operating out of a D.C. pizza joint has gone waaaay beyond “Bias Makes You Stupid” to “Bias Makes People Who Are Stupid Already Too Dangerous For Human Companionship.”

2. Anyone who believes anything that appears on the conspiracy blog “Infowars” is a sitting duck for the next Ponzi scheme.

3. My theory is that Breibart pays Jones to make it look reliable and objective by comparison. And it gets its money’s worth..

The so called Pizzagate conspiracy theory held that top Democratic officials were involved with a satanic child pornography ring centered around Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C. There was never any evidence to support it, and more importantly, was ridiculous on its face. It did not originate with Alex Jones, the proprietor of far right Infowars, but since it was uncomplimentary to Democrats, Jones was supporting Donald Trump, and he has also claimed on Infowars that the 9/11 attacks were  carried out by the United States government and that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown  was a hoax concocted by anti-Second Amendment fanatics, the Pizzagate theory fit right in to the rest of the BS. Thanks in great part to Jones,  the hoax circulated on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, flourished in online forums frequented by idiots, and produced more static interfering with a rational approach to a crucial election.

This hoax, unlike, say, the claim that the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump, had measurable consequences. The pizzeria, its owner and his employees received death threats. Their business has suffered. Nearby businesses have also been adversely affected, and the hoax even spread to several other pizzerias around the country for some reason.The restaurant was closed for two days in December after Edgar M. Welch, one of the above referenced idiots,  showed up at Comet Ping Pong to “investigate,” and fired a semiautomatic rifle  inside the pizzeria. Welch pleaded guilty on Friday to assault with a dangerous weapon and interstate transportation of a firearm. Good. One idiot down.

Now Jones has issued an apology. It was obviously crafted by lawyers: Comet Pizza had demanded one in February, and by law Jones had one month to retract his libel (arguably liable) to avoid being sued. The month would have been up this weekend. Here is that apology, with key sections bolded and numbered to make commenting here easier: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet, Unethical Websites

Ethics Observation On The Trump 2005 Tax Return

Yesterday, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow endlessly hyped the fact that  veteran investigative reporter David Cay Johnston had obtained President Trump’s 2005 federal tax return. When it was revealed, the scoop didn’t justify the hype. Trump  paid 38 million in taxes that year,  24% of his income—not the top rate, but not “nothing,” which was the rumor Democrats were selling during the campaign.

Ethics points:

1. Whoever leaked the return broke the law, and doing so was unethical.  No, it’s not illegal for the news media to take material stolen by others and sanctify it via their First Amendment protections.  It should be though. When they do this, they aide and abet a crime, and Freedom of the Press wasn’t supposed to allow THAT. At very least, journalists should be required to reveal the names of the criminals who steal and release our proprietary documents. The publication of these makes such thefts worse, not better.

2. I don’t see why the President’s tax returns from 12 years ago has any genuine relevance to anything now. The returns were relevant to the decision of whether or not people wanted to vote for him. Now, the tax documents have no purpose, except for the insatiable Trump-bashers to have something new to bash him with. Anything will do.

3. David Cay Johnston was dishing about his “scoop” with GMA’s George Stephanopoulos, and decided to start a new rumor. He speculated that Trump leaked the return himself.  No evidence, not a drop, and yet that’s what this veteran reporter felt was justifiable to say on national TV. Gee, can we call THAT fake news?

4. Then, as he did with Maddow, the reporter went on about all the conflicts of interest that Trump’s financial dealings have created. Again, this is re-litigating the election. At this point, there is no practical way to eliminate Trump’s conflicts and the appearance of impropriety that they create, and he’s not going to bother trying. Johnston, and others, including me, never made a clear case to the public why the President’s unprecedented financial entanglements should have been disqualifying; nor did Hillary, in part because her own financial entanglements were disqualifying. Well, the train left the station, y’all. You had your chance, and botched it. Johnston, like so many of the other bitter-enders who want to turn back time, ultimately get back to, “But…but…but…we never should have elected this guy! Surely there is something we can do to undo it!”

No, there isn’t. Cut it out. Continue reading

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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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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

The Ethics Alarms “Fake News” Project: Seeking Ethics Distinctions Among Web Hoaxes, False Narratives,”Fake News” And Negligent, Incompetent or Biased Reporting (PART I: The New York Times School Voucher Headline)

I LOVE this story! I wish it WERE true!!!

I LOVE this story! I wish it WERE true!!!

Yesterday’s New York Times included a story headlined  Free Market For Education: Economists Generally Don’t Buy It, and it stated,

The odds are good that privatizing education will be part of the agenda for President-elect Donald J. Trump’s administration. […] You might think that most economists agree with this overall approach, because economists generally like free markets. For example, over 90 percent of the members of the University of Chicago’s panel of leading economists thought that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft made consumers better off by providing competition for the highly regulated taxi industry.But economists are far less optimistic about what an unfettered market can achieve in education. Only a third of economists on the Chicago panel agreed that students would be better off if they all had access to vouchers to use at any private (or public) school of their choice.

While economists are trained about the value of free markets, they are also trained to spot when markets can’t work alone and government intervention is required.

That summation, however, was misleading to the point of falsehood. As the Scott Alexander points out at his blog Slate Star Codex,  the source for the story indicated something quite different—materially different:

economists_views

Got that? Scott Alexander writes:

Continue reading

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A Special Ethics Alarms “Fake News” Friday Bulletin: Obama Calls The Hacked DNC E-Mails “Gossip” [UPDATED]

gossip

As I write this, President Obama is using his press conference to spin the Russia-Wikileaks hacked e-mails story. In addition to snidely implying that Americans are idiots for allowing such relative trivia to sway their votes when so much of substance was at stake (note that there is no evidence that any votes were thus swayed), the President referred to the content of the DNC e-mails as “gossip.” Gossip is generally defined as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true.” Calling the contents of Podesta’s e-mails and others “gossip” is deliberate disinformation by Obama—a lie. The most important revelations were definitely not “gossip.” Like these:

  • A 12-page memo written by Doug Band,  longtime aide to Bill Clinton, describes using his consulting firm to raise money for the Clinton Global Initiative as well as direct personal income for the former president. It describes how Band rallied clients of his firm, Teneo, to contribute directly to Mr Clinton for “in-kind services for the President and his family – for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like” referring to that fund as “Bill Clinton Inc”.

The memo confirmed that several companies directly paid the former president for his speeches or advice, while making contributions to the Clinton Global Initiative.  One client, Coca Cola, received a face-to-face meeting with the former president at his home in 2009, after contributing millions to the non-profit foundation.

Verdict: Not gossip, but smoking-gun evidence of Clinton influence peddling.

  • On the fateful day that news of a private email server broke, John Podesta emailed Neera Tanden, who worked for the Clinton campaign in 2008 and has remained a close adviser, to complain, saying, “We’ve taken on a lot of water that won’t be easy to pump out of the boat”, he wrote in September 2015 as Clinton staff feared that Vice President Joe Biden would join the Democratic primary race. “Most of that has to do with terrible decisions made pre-campaign, but a lot has to do with her instincts. Almost no one knows better [than] me that her instincts can be terrible.” In the email exchange, Mr Podesta also complained that Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall, and former State Department staffers Cheryl Mills and Philippe Reines “sure weren’t forthcoming here on the facts here”. Mrs Tanden responds “Why didn’t’ they get this stuff out like 18 months ago? So crazy.”

Tanden later answered her own question saying, “I guess I know the answer. They wanted to get away with it.”

Verdict: Not gossip. These were assessments of those who know Clinton best, and their questioning her judgment was significant, as is the last comment, which completely undermines the year-long Clinton camp denial that there was anything amiss with Hillary’s handling of e-mail at State. It would be admissible in court to show state of mind and that the Clinton camp had lied. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Leadership, The Internet

The Latest Unethical Tactic: Attacking Journalists Who Don’t Actively Try To Promote Hillary Over Trump [UPDATE: Hillary’s Health]

matt-lauer-hillary-clinton

Once the New York Times embraced the rationalization “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford” and announced that journalists had a duty to bias their reporting to block Donald Trump’s election, this result was foretold. It was really foretold in 2008, when the news media first abandoned even the pretense of fairness and objectivity to ensure the election of our first black President.

Matt Lauer, of all people, became the object of furious invective after he hosted a live prime-time forum with Trump and Hillary. He was accused of unfairness, gullibility and even sexism in his handling of the event. His main offenses: not “fact-checking” Trump, as when he said, not for the first time, that he opposed the Iraq invasion from the beginning (he didn’t), and grilling Hillary about her e-mail machinations.

The only way the transcript supports the latter contention is if one is Bernie Sanders and believes Hillary’s “stupid e-mail” is irrelevant. Lauer didn’t spend an inappropriate time on this issue, given what a perfect example it is of Clinton’s Arrogance, deviousness, lack of transparency, and, apparently, incompetence and recklessness.  I’d say he was easy on Hillary: he didn’t mention her sleazy conflicts with Clinton Foundation donors at all, and she is much less adept at spinning that slam-dunk conflict of interest and ethical violation than with her e-mail, which she has been lying about for more than a year. Pro-Clinton news media, which is to say, news media, howled about Lauer not challenging Trump’s thoroughly disproven claim about opposing the Iraq War, but Clinton already had done this, saying, “Now, my opponent was for the war in Iraq. He says he wasn’t. You can go back and look at the record. He supported it. He told Howard Stern he supported it.” Maybe Lauer thought that was enough; it should have been: Trump’s lie on this score has been well-publicized, including here, on Ethics Alarms.

Meanwhile, he did not challenge Clinton on her obviously false claim that emails cannot be considered classified if they do not contain formal classification markings, and worst of all, he did not challenge her unconstitutional call to ban citizens who are placed on a no-fly list from exercising their Second Amendment rights. This is especially important, because this fact isn’t understood by most Americans, and a Presidential candidate advocating defiance of the Constitution is, or should be, a big deal. Never mind, though: Lauer wasn’t supposed to be tough on Hillary. He was only supposed to be hard on Trump, and because he wasn’t “hard enough,” a.k.a., “harder,” a.k.a. “biased like the rest of the mainstream coverage,” then it means that he was incompetent. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Social Media, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump