For much of the past week, Fox News has been promoting the exclusive appearance of James O’Keefe, the ersatz pimp who produced the ACORN entrapment videos, on their Sunday interview program. The actual segment, it turns out, was not an interview at all, but an overtly favorable puff piece. O’Keefe was heralded as the Fox News Sunday Power Player of the week:
This blatant adoration of O’Keefe had no news content whatsoever. It was pure puffery from start to finish. The only items worthy of note were 1) O’Keefe’s answer to Wallace’s question on whether he broke the law. O’Keefe’s answered “I don’t know what the law is.” 2) Wallace’s search for what drove O’Keefe. Wallace said that what he found was “A special outrage with liberal hypocrisy.” 3) O’Keefe’s admission of intent to do harm in his “reporting” saying that “If you use their rules against them, you can really just tease them and mock them and really destroy them.”
So O’Keefe wants to destroy the liberals and doesn’t seem to care about what laws he breaks to do it. He also doesn’t care about what journalistic ethics he violates. A short examination of the Code of Ethics as enumerated by the Society of Professional Journalists, reveals numerous breaches. These are just a few, with some particularly egregious transgressions highlighted:
- Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
- Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
- Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
- Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story
- Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
- Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
- Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
- Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
- Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
- Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
- Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
- Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
With so many infractions of credible behavior, it is interesting that Fox News chose this character to honor as a Power Player. O’Keefe’s avowed prejudices and absence of professionalism would lead most reputable news enterprises to denouncement rather than tribute. But instead, Fox celebrates this journalistic parasite. It is a testament to the lack of credibility of Fox News itself.