Gretchen Carlson doesn’t understand conflict of interest or full disclosure to win the Media Putz
Originally published on MediaPutz.com on December 10, 2009
As Jon Stewart has noted, Gretchen Carlson seems to have trouble with the definitions of terms lately. One term in particular that troubles Carlson is “conflict of interest.”
Merriam-Webster defines the term as “a conflict between the private interests and the official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust.”
As part of a previous Media Putz, Carlson — in interviewing Rep. Michele Bachmann — didn’t mention that Bachmann used to be her nanny. This was bad enough that all along, Bachmann used to be Carlson’s nanny, and there was no disclosure. But even after George Will disclosed this information, Carlson interviewed Bachmann without acknowledging their relationship, refusing to acknowledge this term she still finds strange: conflict of interest.
There was a tiny bit of hope that Carlson would learn a lesson, and spending some of her Googling time on this mysterious “conflict of interest” concept. But as the phrase should go, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on Fox.”
Gretchen Carlson interviewed Derek Jeter, shortstop for the New York Yankees, last week. The interview was as hard-hitting as her Michele Bachmann chat, er, interview.
Carlson used a few positive phrases in talking about Jeter:
“the last pure athlete in Major League Baseball”
“he seems to do everything right”
“you’re the hottest athlete right now in the world”
There’s one teeny, tiny problem with the interview: Carlson’s husband, Casey Close, is Jeter’s agent. Longtime agent. Gretchen Carlson knew this, but didn’t tell us. That, Gretchen, is a conflict of interest.
Let’s help Gretchen understand the issues behind conflict of interest. The “conflict between the private interests”: that would be having a personal relationship between you and the subject matter, whether this person is your nanny from childhood or one of your husband’s top clients. The “official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust” is a bit more difficult for Gretchen to understand since being the co-host of “Fox & Friends” is actually a position of trust. People who are journalists, not just pretend ones, feel the importance of what they are saying so they do not put themselves in a situation where trust is violated.
Gretchen Carlson’s family income depends on the perception and image of Derek Jeter. And so she shouldn’t be the first person to turn to in doing an interview. She doesn’t work on “The Gretchen Carlson Show”; Carlson does have two co-hosts, even if they are Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade.
If by some chance you do an interview, there is an ethical obligation to disclose any prior relationship. Yet, Carlson does the interviews with subjects that have a direct conflict of interest, doesn’t give full disclosure, and no one at Fox seems to care. Or does someone need to explain “full disclosure” to Gretchen Carlson.
Admittedly, Jeter is not a politician; he is, after all, a shortstop. But her interviewing style with Jeter seemed underwhelming even for Carlson.
Carlson’s first question wasn’t even a question, it was her listing a bunch of recent accolades. The following are actual questions:
“What about going back to college?”
“What athletes do you like to watch?”
“How difficult is it to live your life so perfectly?”
The big news Carlson discovered was that Jeter doesn’t make his bed.
After the interview, Carlson summed up her view of Jeter and at the same time, said something golden about what she does for a living.
On why Jeter doesn’t want to pursue a career in broadcasting, “that’s very much the essence of Derek Jeter. He does not want to say anything negative about anyone else, so we know he’s not going to take one of our jobs.”
The organizations that are probably the saddest of all in watching Carlson’s brand of ethics are Stanford University and Oxford University. Carlson graduated from Stanford with honors and studied at Oxford, according to Carlson’s online bio.
All that is required is a simple sentence at some point in the interview or broadcast that states a relationship between the interviewer and the interview subject. It would be audacious to have people with that kind of relationship in that scenario on a regular basis, but the deliberate omission of a single explanatory sentence speaks volumes of the journalistic priorities of Gretchen Carlson.
Carlson’s Stanford and Oxford background proves that she is capable of following Ethics 101. Yet, Carlson goes out of her way to interview people with direct personal conflicts without full disclosure. So Gretchen Carlson earns the Media Putz of the week.