There’s no joy in Mudville when I have to call out a fellow conservative. In his Dec. 10 episode of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart (NOT the conservative in question) launched into yet another satirical diatribe targeting Glenn Beck (the conservative in question). Nothing new there, except this time Stewart was right on the money – or the gold, in this case – and Beck’s credibility is at issue.
- FACT #1: Glenn Beck tells his viewers and listeners that the economy is heading for catastrophic failure.
- FACT #2: Beck tells us the only safe-haven for our money is gold.
- FACT #3: Beck is a paid spokesperson for Goldline.com.
Setting political leanings aside for the moment, this is a clear-cut conflict of interest. The conflict of interest lays not in his recommendation that his listeners and viewers invest in gold, but that he is paid by a specific gold seller to endorse gold buying AND he incorporates a pro-gold message in his shows disguising the message as analysis of the economy.
The Society of Professional Journalists employs a code of ethics that reflects the common standards across the profession. In part, their code of ethics says —
- Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
- Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
- Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
Granted, talking heads like Beck, Chris Matthews, Bill O’Reilly and Rachel Maddow aren’t expected to stick to the Who, What, When and Where of news stories. They’re paid for their opinions. But Beck crossed an ethical line when he began espousing opinions that intersect with his own financial interests. The whole scenario calls into question the credibility of Beck’s analysis of our economy, and I will hereafter cringe whenever he utters the word “gold,” regardless of the context.
What is even more disheartening about Beck’s arrangement with Goldline.com, and the recent hullabaloo over his conflict of interest, is his smug, sarcastic mea culpa. He takes the cheap way out by blaming liberal bloggers for creating a controversy over his endorsement of Goldline.com, suggesting that he uses the service he promotes and that makes it okay. It doesn’t.
Glenn Beck is undoubtedly one of the more polarizing conservative talking heads on television and radio these days. His commentary is impassioned, gritty and confrontational – often calling into question the integrity and motives of government officials and anyone who exercises influence over our government. In such a business, Beck must hold himself to the higher standard by which he judges the actions of others if he is to maintain any credibility.
As much as his loyal fans of the conservative ranks may want to dismiss this whole situation as small potatoes in a world of dirty politics, to do so would land them guilty of the same hypocrisy of which the left is often accused. Beck needs to admit to his poor judgment and remedy the situation, and guard his integrity with greater vigilance.