After a recent campaign event in Texas, Herman Cain was asked about the allegations of sexual harassment at which point he refused to answer and instructed his chief of staff to send the reporter a copy of “the journalistic code of ethics”.
When I googled that term I found the SPJ Code of Ethics from the Society of Professional Journalists http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp. I reviewed the points within the code and found nothing that indicated a reporter should only ask the questions which the subject wants to answer. What is message is Herman Cain trying to send? Is his only intent to imply that the reported is violating professional ethics or does he actually think that it is improper to ask about a subject which he doesn’t want to discuss?
If I had to guess, I’d say he is most concerned about the following points:
[ul]Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.[/ul]
[ul]Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity.[/ul]
[ul]Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.[/ul]
That said, no he doesn’t really have a point. But it’s good politics, particularly with his base, to accuse the press of unfairness and impropriety at every opportunity.
The message he’s trying to send is “the media is out to get me and I don’t want to have to talk about this any more.” There’s not much point in taking anything he’s said literally- he neither knows nor cares about journalistic ethics. He doesn’t want to be asked questions about the sexual harassment settlements because they make him look bad, which is the same reason anyone doesn’t want to be asked questions about negative things.
I agree that Politico didn’t do anything unethical here. They gave Cain plenty of time to respond to the story before they broke it. The campaign stonewalled for a while and eventually responded. Then Cain tried to pretend the whole thing was a surprise to him and told a bunch of different stories over a couple of days and generally looked confused and inept. That’s not Politico’s fault.
I think of the list provided only the third item could be stretched enough to actually apply; the source information at this point is not an issue as Cain has already conceded there were settlements for the accusations so simply asking about the settlements and other details seems fair game. As for “good taste” - that’s a vague concept to apply and I don’t know asking for further clarification is in “bad taste” given Cain’s previous inconsistent responses.
All in all it seems that he is merely attempting to smear the reporters by insinuating they are violating their code of ethics when there is no indication that is true.
Is that actually in dispute? The reports say something negative about Cain and he can’t dispute the central issue (that claims of sexual harrassment were settled), so part of his defense is to cast aspersions on the people who reported the facts. This isn’t new or surprising. It happens all the time.
I haven’t heard the “I won’t talk about it” strategy since Watergate. Didn’t work very well there either. Cain is coming across as a coward and a pussy. I wonder if they think it will work, though perhaps Fox will respect his wishes.
And for journalistic ethics, claiming this is a violation is even stupider than nein nein nein.
My understanding was that Cain was complaining that the stories about his settlements (which were absolutely true) were based on anonymous allegations. Using anonymous sources is always controversial and rightly so, although in this case I’m not sure it made any difference. While Politico did not initially name the women who sued Cain, they did mention their names specifically when asking the Cain campaign for comment. Initially this allowed Cain to pretend he didn’t know who was accusing him. In any case one of the two women who settled a lawsuit has now divulged her identity and another woman has said Cain also harrassed her. So that would resolve most of the issue of using anonymous sources. And it was arguably sort of unfair to cast aspersions on the women for remaining anonymous when they were bound by a nondisclosure agreement with the National Restaurant Association. It doesn’t seem like they went public on their own.