The Manager, The Hot Reporter, Conflicts and Professionalism

moranfarrell

It’s nice of my favorite baseball team to supply me with ethics stories, don’t you think? This one has management ethics, relationship ethics, journalism ethics, sexual harassment and professionalism.

The Boston Globe reported last week that Boston Red Sox manager John  Farrell and Comcast SportsNet New England reporter Jessica Moran, who covered the team,  were romantically involved. Moran promptly resigned. This quickly degenerated into the usual ethically muddled discussion by members of the public who watch George Stephanopoulos interview Hillary Clinton and see nothing amiss, and have been so badly taught the ethics basics that they couldn’t identify a conflict of interest if they tripped on one, and members of the news media, who, if anything, are worse.  Among the questions being floated, and their somehow elusive answers…

These are consenting adults. Why aren’t they free to have a relationship?

Because they are professionals, with special duties to their constituencies and stakeholders, and the relationship between a reporter and her subject undermines independence, loyalty, trust and competence.

Why is it always the woman the one who has to lose her job?

It isn’t. The journalist has to lose her job, because the journalist breached the basic ethics of the profession. The baseball manager’s conduct is wrong,  but comparatively tangential to his duties at worst. It is still seriously unethical, however, and undermines team culture and the status of other women who have duties involving the team.  Farrell, by dating Moran, was sending a message to his players and other team personnel that these women are legitimate targets for sexual courtship rather than workplace colleagues.  The relationship may have constituted third party sexual harassment, making other women feel as if team leadership had sent the message that they weren’t to be taken seriously as professionals.

Why is everyone making a big deal about this? She’s a beautiful young woman, covering a team of men. Isn’t this to be expected? Continue reading

“Code Black” Glosses Over A Medical Ethics Imperative

Code Black

In TV’s medical drama “Code Black‘s” episode “Diagnosis of Exclusion,” we were plunged, as is too often the case in such shows, into a freak situation that might not occur in any U.S. hospital for a century, but that somehow happens on TV routinely.

A lunatic stalker named Gordon (Jesse Bradford) tried to rape doctor Malaya Pineda (Melanie Chandra) in the hospital garage, after stabbing a hospital administrator, perhaps fatally. Dr. Pineda fought back, the stalker stabbed her in the stomach, and then mild-mannered Dr. Angus Leighton (Harry Ford) arrived in time to pull the stalker off of his wounded friend and save her life. In the struggle that ensued, crazy Gordon was stabbed in the neck with his own knife.

This was presented in flashback, in the form of an official inquiry where Dr. Leighton explained that he told the stalker not to pull out his knife, but he did anyway, causing uncontrollable bleeding. “Maybe I could have done more but, I was out of my mind,” Angus explains. Leighton says he tried to stop the bleeding as he screamed for help. By the time the paramedics got the murderous patient into the ER, he was beyond saving.

Ahhh, but that’s not exactly what happened, we learn! First we saw Angus’s older brother, also a doctor, tell him that he did the right thing, that Gordon tried to kill two women that day and would have gone on to kill more if Angus hadn’t acted as he did.

Wait, what? Continue reading

Carolyn Hax And The Unanswerable Ethics Dilemma

secrets

My favorite advice columnist, innate ethicist Carolyn Hax, courageously and wisely addressed an ethics problem that is the equivalent of squaring the circle or finding the end of pi. The question posed by a commenter:

My mother says she will not tell me who my father is and will take the secret to the grave with her. Is there ever any good reason for not telling someone who their father is?

This is not merely a difficult question but also a portal question leading us to a myriad of specific ethics dilemmas. Hax offers a few, some of which aren’t very good:

  • If she doesn’t know for sure herself.

Well, of course: also if she can’t communicate due to her mouth being sewn shut, her arms amputated, she never learned Morse Code and it lousy at charades.]

  • If he committed crimes so heinous that she fears they would change the way you see yourself.
  • If he was and is still married to her sister, cousin, best friend.

Or if the mother is the father…?

  • If revealing his name would reveal something embarrassing about her or her past choices or the circumstances of your birth.

Nope. Embarrassment about the truth is not a valid reason for withholding it from someone who has a legitimate and justified reason to know it.

  • If she promised him she would take the secret of his identity to her grave.

Too bad: that’s never a good reason. A commitment to the dead does not, can not and must not have priority over obligations to the living. That’s an unethical promise; the daughter cannot be ethically made to suffer for it.

If he’s a sperm donor and she thinks there’s something wrong with admitting that.

  • The mother thinking it’s a good reason isn’t the same as it being a good reason. Come on, Carolyn.

My favorite is if the father is Satan, and the mother wants her daughter to have as normal and happy a life as possible until the inevitable day when Dad calls on her to assume her destiny as the DARK EMPRESS OF THE DAMNED! Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Obamas’ “Private Party”

prince

President Obama and his wife, Michelle invited about 500 guests to a White House party where pop icons Prince and Stevie Wonder entertained guests. Among the guests were Al Sharpton, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his date, singer Ciara, Jon Bon Jovi, James Taylor, Tyler Perry, Connie Britton, Angela Bassett, Gayle King, Tracee Ellis Ross, fashion designer Naeem Kha, American Express exec Ken Chenault,  former Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, as well as about 480 others of doubtlessly equal glitter who didn’t squeal about the blow-out on Twitter or Instagram or who weren’t mentioned by other guests who did.

The party was not mentioned on the President’s official schedule, and it almost managed to occur without publicity until the White House news briefing on Monday afternoon, when Josh Earnest was grilled about it. The White House spokesman said two interesting things, one audacious in its blatant dishonesty and Orwellian logic, and the other ….interesting. The first:

“I think the fact that we’re talking about a private event and the fact that details of this are known is an indication that the president is committed to being transparent. At the same time, the president and first lady are going to reserve the right to host private parties at the White House, and they did it on their own dime.”

Further proving how transparent the President was, Earnest announced that no guest list would be provided to the press or the public. Now that’s transparency. The other statement:

[T]”he President and First Lady are going to reserve the right to host private parties at the White House, and they did it on their own dime. I think that’s consistent with the kinds of values that they have talked about.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

“Are there any ethical problems with the Obama’s “private party”?

Continue reading

Heeeeeeeeeere’s JOHNNY’S BETRAYAL!!!!

henry_bushkin_johnny_carson

Lawyers are forbidden by the ethics rules of their profession in every state from divulging the secrets of their clients, their former clients, or even their dead former clients, except in the rare circumstances when doing so will save a life or prevent a crime, and often not even then. Client confidences include all information a lawyer learns about a client in the course of the representation whether or not it is germane to the representation or not, if the client would be embarrassed by the information or would want it to remain secret.

The duty to maintain client confidences goes to the core of the professional relationship between citizens and their lawyers, and any attorney who breaches it not only harms his or her client but undermines trust in the entire profession as well. So sacrosanct is the duty that a Massachusetts court agreed with the Fall River law firm that represented Lizzy Borden in her famous murder trial, when Lizzy’s heirs tried to force it to reveal whether she did, in fact, “give her mother forty whacks” (and her father forty-one) with an ax, that it could not reveal Borden’s secrets even in the interests of history.  The firm, said the court, was quite correct: Miss Borden hired it based on its lawyers’ assurances that her secrets were safe with the firm forever, and to allow otherwise now, even a century after the crime, would betray her trust and undermine the profession’s integrity. The Massachusetts Bar agrees.

So how can it be that Henry Bushkin, for decades the late Johnny Carson’s personal lawyer and thus charged with keeping the secrets of the famously reticent comic’s personal life, is now publishing a tell-all book filled with juicy stories about his conveniently dead client? Continue reading

Musings on the Strange Case of the Call Girl Olympian

Favor Hamilton, Olympian, call girl. in a recent promotional shot for browsing johns. "Faster, Higher, Stronger!"

Favor Hamilton, Olympian, call girl. in a recent promotional shot for browsing johns. “Faster, Higher, Stronger!”

The Smoking Gun, in what has to constitute the most ready-made plot for a cheesy movie in history, has obtained documents showing that three-time Olympian runner Suzy Favor Hamilton spent the last year living a secret life as a Las Vegas call girl. The entire story is jaw-dropping, including Hamilton’s comments about it once she was confronted with imminent exposure. It also raises some vivid ethical issues, as you might expect.

Beginning last December, the 44-year-old Hamilton  started working under the fake name “Kelly Lundy” with one of Las Vegas’s premier escort services, booking what the Smoking Gun terms as “scores of ‘dates'” in Vegas, where prostitution (I was surprised to learn) is illegal (though it is legal in other parts of Nevada), as well as Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and other cities, where it is also against the law. She apparently was outed after she told one of her clients who she really was, and he couldn’t keep a secret.

Hmmmm.

A few observations: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Is a Transgendered Woman Ethically Obligated To Tell Her Boyfriend That She Used To be Male?”

You never know. My post about the ethics of withholding the fact of one’s past and altered gender from a potential spouse sparked the most passionate, erudite and instructive debate among readers that Ethics Alarms has seen in a long time, involving an all-star squad of some of this blog’s best minds. The prize goes to Zoebrain, though, who scores the Comment of the Day with this three part contribution. It’s long; don’t let that discourage you. It, and the whole thread, which you can find here, is well worth your time, because you will learn something. I did.

“May I give an extended set of replies here please? You see, this isn’t a hypothetical for me, it’s an actual. Continue reading