Ethics Hero: USA Today

News you can use!

News you can use!

Increasingly, all the Obama White House has in its tool box to limit the damage of fiascos  past, present and future is its ability to manipulate the President’s  public image.  For five years an infuriatingly uncritical and submissive press allowed this administration to avoid the consequences of mistakes, problems and misconduct that would have dominated front pages for months in past years, but some vague signs of backbone have been visible of late, so the White House is cracking down.

From the journalism website of the Poynter Institute:

“A coalition of news organizations, including the Associated Press, ABC News, The Washington Post and Reuters called for better access to the president and the White House today in a letter addressed to White House press secretary Jay Carney.

The letter says, in part:

“Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the President while he is performing his official duties. As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government.”

The National Press Photographers Association also put its name to the protest. “Media organizations including NPPA have been keeping track of all the times on the president’s schedule when something has been marked ‘private,’ or when there’s been a news lid issued by the Press Office, only to find a White House photograph from the event show up a short time later on its official Web site,” NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher said. “We have never been granted access to the President at work in the Oval Office accompanied by his staff,” AP Director of Photography Santiago Lyon said. “Previous administration regularly granted such access.”

Continue reading

The CBS-White House Fraternal Connection: THAT’S An Apearance of Impropriety…So Now what?

OK, so they're brothers. What makes you think they're in cahoots?

OK, so they’re brothers. What makes you think they’re in cahoots?

What are we to make of these facts?

  • The Benghazi talking points prepared by the CIA went through 12 revisions before they were revealed to the press and the public. The White House was  involved in that process, and the original references to a terror attack were removed. President Obama’s deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes, was instrumental in this.
  • CBS News executives are reportedly upset with award-winning CBS reporter, Sharyl Attkisson, who has, almost alone in the mainstream media, continued to investigate and report on the Obama administration’s controversial handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack in Libya, including the apparent obfuscations regarding its cause. Attkinson is having trouble getting her reporting aired, and her position may be in peril.

Ethics Dunces: LGTB White House Guests

“While the White House does not control the conduct of guests at receptions, we certainly expect that all attendees conduct themselves in a respectful manner. Most all do. These individuals clearly did not. Behavior like this doesn’t belong anywhere, least of all in the White House.”

Thus did a White House spokesman properly rebuke the crude LGTB activists who reciprocated the hospitality of the President in inviting them to a LGTB pride reception at his home by taking photos of themselves flipping their middle finger to the portrait of Ronald Reagan and posting them on Facebook with such clever captions as “FUCK YOU!”

This is one more marker in the continuing degradation of American manners, etiquette and respect for institutions, but it also displays such a void of gratitude and common sense that one is led to despair. “These photographs have hurt our community and make advocating for inclusion and equality more difficult. The participants should be ashamed,” the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP supporters, said in their response. Correct on both counts. It is hard to see anything positive that could come from such a juvenile display of raw vulgarity and self-indulgence, either for the activists’ social agenda or anyone else. They embarrassed the White House, breached basic standards of guest conduct, displayed wonton incivility and rudeness, showed disrespect for an American landmark and the institution of the Presidency, insulted the memory of a past leader, and crowed about it on Facebook like the ill-bred teenagers.

How proud of them the Lesbian Gay Transgendered Bi-sexual community must be!

Actually, I doubt it. There isn’t a single person in the country, not one, beginning with the President, through Nancy Reagan, to every patriotic American and every member of the LBTB community that these boors don’t owe an apology to.



Graphic: The Blaze

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

Solyndra, the White House, and the Most Dangerous Conflict of Interest of All

It isn’t a Republican or a Democratic Party problem, and it isn’t unique to the Obama Administration. It is a structural problem in American government, a conflict of interest that pits the best interests of the American people against the political interests of the party in power. The only solution to the problem, since it is here to stay, is leaders who acknowledge the conflict, are dedicated to doing the right thing anyway, and have the courage to demand that their staffs do likewise.

The Soyndra scandal shows that Barack Obama is not such a leader. That does not make him unique, but it is a serious ethical flaw nonetheless. Continue reading

The Uncommon Common Dilemma

Emily Dickinson, he's not.

It is unusual to encounter a situation where there is no course that doesn’t violate some legitimate ethical principle. The dilemma involving rapper Common’s controversial invitation to the White House is one of them. None of the options are strictly ethical, and this has led advocates both for and against his inclusion in Michelle Obama’s poetry event, “An Evening of  Poetry at the White House,” to behave unethically themselves. Let’s see: what comes closest to being ethical conduct of the possible outcomes?

Option A: Michelle has her poetry event, but doesn’t invite any mainstream rapper. Ethical breaches: Incompetence, bias, censorship, dishonesty.

Rap is the most dynamic and popular form of poetry in America today. Having an event to “showcase the impact of poetry on American culture” at the White House that excludes popular rappers is absurd on its face; it would be like the White House celebrating the influence of sports in American culture and omitting football. Continue reading

What Do you Call A Newspaper That Defends Outrageous Journalistic Practices? How About “Di Tzeitung”?

If Di Tzeitung had covered the Civil War

If I could pronounce it, the Brooklyn-based Hasidic newspaper Di Tzeitung would be useful shorthand  for “shamelessly using rationalizations to defend indefensible conduct.”

Last week, the newspaper ran the now-familiar photo of President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and others in the White House Situation Room, except that in Di Tzeitung’s version, Clinton  and the only other woman present, Director for Counter-terrorism Audrey Tomason, had magically vanished. Di Tzeitung had airbrushed them out, Politburo-style.

Of course, publishing the photo of a historic news event and altering it to convey misleading or false information (in this case, “Hillary wasn’t there”) is a substantial and wide-ranging violation of core journalism ethics, a breach of the reader’s trust, unfair, dishonest, misleading, incompetent and disrespectful. The altered photo was alternately condemned and mocked all over the media and blogosphere. Yet Di Tzeitung is largely unapologetic, and made it clear that it would do the same thing again if the opportunity arose. In a prepared statement, the editors explained why they did nothing “wrong”…well, almost nothing…challenging the Olympic record for rationalization by a news organization along the way: Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: The White House

“Any suggestion that this was an insult to the United States is just flat wrong.  As Lang Lang has stated before, he plays this song regularly because it is one of his favorite Chinese melodies, which is very widely known and popular in China for its melody.  Lang Lang played the song without lyrics or reference to any political themes during the entertainment portion of the State Dinner. He simply stated the song’s title and noted it was well known in China.”

White House Spokesman Tommy Vietor, arguing that Chinese pianist Lang Lang’s  playing of a Chinese  song that referred to Americans a “jackals” at a White House dinner was as innocent as the day is long.

The song was well-known in China all right—well-known as an anti-American song. Continue reading

Obama’s Damaging Ethical Blind Spot

For several years, I have been using a hypothetical in my business ethics courses involving the head of a non-profit who brings in a fundraising whiz to help the organization survive. While he is settling in and before he has had time to rescue the organization with his fundraising wizardry, she has asked the staff to accept a freeze on raises and hiring, and has cut other expenses, and even some staff. She asks the new fundraiser to live with his dilapidated office, though she had promised him a redecoration while recruiting him. But he objects: Continue reading

Standards, the Salahis, Bluto, and Us

A sane culture discourages ethical misconduct by condemning and punishing it. The American culture, thanks to greed, intellectual rot and an irresponsible media, rewards unethical conduct by making it profitable. This isn’t a trivial matter.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi are about as despicable a pair as one can imagine, redeemed only by the fact that they haven’t caused any oil spills, aren’t abusing children and haven’t killed anyone. They are full-time grifters, and are diligently working to profit by exploiting America’s sick obsession with media celebrity. They crashed a White House dinner in November, costing several people their jobs, and launching multiple investigations that added to the tax-payers’ burden. None of that mattered to them, of course, because the irresponsible escapade advanced their idiotic, pathetic and selfish goal: joining the likes of Jose Canseco, Corey Feldman and Gary Busey on TV’s equivalent of belching, a reality show. Then, being completely shameless, they recently stalked a White House dinner again, getting themselves stopped by the Secret Service as they rode in a rented limousine, dressed in formal attire, with an “Inside Edition” camera crew in tow. This was just an “incredible coincidence,” they explained…wink-wink, nudge-nudge. Continue reading

Rep. Sestak and That White House Bribe…

Can anyone remember another series of elections in which the winners found themselves in so much ethical hot water so quickly? First we have a U.S. Senate convention nominee in Connecticut (Blumenthal wasn’t really elected, just chosen by delegates) revealed having misrepresented his military record multiple times. Then the victorious Republican Senate nominee in Kentucky goes on TV and radio to prove that he cares more about being true to what the New York Times calls “textbook libertarianism” than its real world human and societal costs. Now Rep. Joe Sestak is being caught in an ethical quandary. Is he going to finger members of Obama’s White House, cover up a Federal crime, or admit he was lying? Continue reading