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June 21, 2007
How to rationalize bad behavior
Bill Dedman of MSNBC revealed today a list of journalists who made political contributions. You will not be surprised to learn it was a 9 to 1 ratio in favor of the Democrats. But like Tames Taranto I am amused and instructed by the ridiculous response of the NYT's ethicist Randy Cohen when it was revealed he'd contributed to MoveOn, the radical lefty group. Dedman wrote:
Then there's Randy Cohen, who writes the "Ethicist" column for the New York Times and gave $585 to MoveOn.org, an Angry Left Group":
Cohen said he thought of MoveOn.org as nonpartisan and thought the donation would be allowed even under the strict rule at the Times.
"We admire those colleagues who participate in their communities--help out at the local school, work with Little League, donate to charity," Cohen said in an e-mail. "But no such activity is or can be non-ideological. Few papers would object to a journalist donating to the Boy Scouts or joining the Catholic Church. But the former has an official policy of discriminating against gay children; the latter has views on reproductive rights far more restrictive than those of most Americans. Should reporters be forbidden to support those groups? I'd say not. Unless a group's activities impinge on a reporter's beat, the reporter should be free to donate to a wide range of nonprofits. Make a journalist's charitable giving transparent, and let the readers weigh it as they will.
"Those who do not cover anything, but write a column of opinion should have even more latitude. It is such a writer's job to make his views explicit. Those donations to nonprofits will no doubt reflect the views he or she is hired to express. In evaluating such civic engagement, it is well to remember that to have an opinion is not to have a bias. To conceal one's political opinions is not to be without them."
After MSNBC.com checked the names of Times staff and contributors on this list with a spokesperson for the Times, Cohen sent this addendum:
"That said, Times policy does forbid my making such donations, and I will not do so in the future."