Ethics Hero: Wolf Blitzer

Watch out, Newt! It's SUPER-WOLF!!!

Once again Ethics Alarms finds itself in the sad position of calling conduct heroic that should be routine. Unfortunately, however, competent and responsible broadcast journalism isn’t routine, and if I was looking for a bold and quick-witted journalist to exceed the standard practice, it certainly wouldn’t be CNN’s plodding, timid and often befuddled Wolf Blitzer. Last night, however, as moderator of the latest GOP candidates debate, he did what few journalists ever have the confidence or courage to do: he challenged a politician on an absurd and hypocritical statement.

And yes, I confess…if Wolf fell slightly short of true Ethics Hero status by a couple of points, the fact that the politician involved was New Gingrich the Unethical put him over the top. If that be bias, so be it. Continue reading

Wolf’s Question and the Ethical Answer

"Upon reflection, perhaps failing to buy health insurance was a mistake..."

Wolf Blitzer’s question to Rep. Ron Paul at the CNN/Tea Party Express Republican debate in Tampa, Fla. has received most of its publicity because of the idiotic response it elicited from the audience, or some of it. That is good fodder for the Tea Party-slimers, but it was the query itself that raised the most interesting ethical issue.

What should happen, Wolf asked, when a healthy 30-year-old man who can afford insurance chooses not to buy it, and then goes into a coma and needs intensive care for six months? Ron Paul, true to his libertarian soul, muttered unhelpfully that we should all take responsibility for ourselves, which is true, but non-responsive. Blitzer followed up: “But, Congressman, are you saying the society should just let him die?” (This is where the barbarians at the gates added their bloodthirsty shouts of “Yeah!”)

Slate’s Jonah Goldberg has written about what he calls the three possible options available to American society to handle the comatose slacker: Continue reading

Should Rep. Weiner Resign?

Well, at least Weiner got THAT off his chest. Now all he needs to do is resign.

I was giving a seminar on building an organizational culture free from sexual harassment today, and happened to mention Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter misadventures. “Allegedly!” shouted out one of the participants. “Allegedly,” I conceded. “But I’m pretty sure we’re going to find out that he behaved inappropriately; I knew that the minute he said that the crotch in the picture might have been his. Might have been his? What kind of guy his age takes photos of his crotch?” By the time I left the seminar at about 4 PM, Rep. Weiner was already engaged in his excruciating press conference, confessing, apologizing, and taking the full brunt of the media’s onslaught.

A woman had come forward to reveal more photos the Congressman had sent to her over social media…sad, embarrassing photos for any man over the age of 16 that hinted at untreated emotional problems in a man with a new wife, a high-profile job, and so much to lose. Rep. Weiner had to come clean, not that he had been doing a very convincing job of lying over the past week.

Give him credit for a forthright capitulation to the truth, once he changed his story. Continue reading

Botching Big News: CNN and Fox Show How Far Their Profession Has Fallen

It was nearly 11 PM, E.S.T., and the sudden announcement that President Obama was about to make an important announcement “related to national security” had been hanging in the air for almost a half hour, as TV reporters, hosts and anchors speculated and waited. I was jumping back and forth between two networks when the news began leaking out about what the announcement would be: Osama bin Laden had been killed in a U.S. operation. The professional ethics on both networks promptly evaporated, as Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley and Howard K. Smith looked down from news anchor heaven and retched. Continue reading

Super-Soaker Ethics at Joe Biden’s Party

I don’t think I can do a better or more thorough job than Salon’s Glenn Greenwald at making crystal clear what is so ethically wrong with members of the Washington press corps happily frolicking with Vice President Biden, Rahm Emanuel and other administration Obama officials at Biden-hosted party, so read his column here. Not that what Greenwald says shouldn’t be immediately obvious, especially to the journalists themselves, but it obviously isn’t. I just heard Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter turned Fox flack, laughingly say that she used to share an Amtrak car with Biden when he was a Senator to get inside information, and she didn’t see why accompanying him on a water slide was any different.

Oh, come on. Continue reading