Ethics

Ethical Bang Bang


I don’t think enough people care about ethics. Most of the time when someone acts like ethics is something important to him, what’s really important is catching the other guy for violating them. Yeah, we’re talking about Republicans.

Republicans pretend to care about right over wrong, but they really only care about the politics of it. Currently, they’re attacking President Biden over an issue that they didn’t care about when Donald Trump did it worse. Oh, so much worse. Yesterday, one of my readers tweeted that at least with a Special Counsel, House Republicans won’t create any bullshit committees to investigate Biden’s misplacement of classified documents. I had to laugh. They’ve already created two.

One of the Republicans who’ll be chairing a bullshit select committee with subpoena power is a guy who defied congressional subpoenas over his part in an insurrection. He also ignored sexual assaults he was aware of.

In case you are a Republican, ethics are the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior. Do I also need to tell you what “morals” and “principles” are? It explains why the Republican majority’s very first vote was to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. Hell, they tried to eliminate it altogether in 2017 but it didn’t take.

Without ethics, the GOP is perfectly fine with a serial liar among their ranks, George Santos. Speaker (gag) Kevin McCarthy (15th time’s the charm) stands by Santos, who also voted for his speakership, by the way. McCarthy says the voters sent Santos to Congress, but they didn’t know who they were sending to Congress when they voted for that guy. They voted for Art Vandelay and got George Costanza.

There’s an active bipartisan bill in Congress right now that would ban members and their families from trading individual stocks, but even the Republicans who support that don’t have an issue with a Republican president engaging in business with foreign nations.

Republicans are really interested in discovering if President Biden ever engaged in foreign business through his son, Hunter, and I would be too if there was some there there, but Republicans didn’t care about Trump’s hotels and resorts collecting hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars from foreign nationals. They don’t care about Jared Kuchner collecting $2 billion from murderer Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. They’re not going to form a select committee to investigate the NRA collecting Russian money. They closed their eyes to the millions of dollars Javanka made while working in the White House, but want to investigate Hunter using his dad’s name to make business deals.

Republicans have literally created a select committee to investigate political weaponization that they’ll use to attack their political opponents on a strictly partisan basis. They plan to investigate investigations and protect criminals. For Republicans, it’s a crime to go after Republican criminals.

Ethics are important and it’s something journalism has always taken seriously because politicians don’t. Chris Cuomo doesn’t have a job right now because he violated journalism ethics. Goons at Fox News who did the same exact same thing as Cuomo still have their talk shows, which shows that Murdoch outlets don’t much care for ethics…like Republicans.

The Society of Professional Journalists and the Poynter Institute both have programs about ethics. My own organization, The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) does not. Why don’t cartoonists want to talk about ethics? Political cartoonists are journalists and most of us who’ve worked for newspapers have had to sign ethics policies in the past, though now there are more and more cartoonists who’ve never seen one of those. Ethicalhoobitywhatty now?

Cartoonists don’t want to talk about ethics because quite frankly, ethics can be hard. Isn’t it easier to ignore them? Republicans would agree. Also, it gets you in trouble to talk about them and makes enemies. We don’t want to go to war with each other over something as minuscule as accountability, right?

I don’t want to go to war with any colleagues either and it’s probably not good for my career, but I’ve done it. I know I’m no more qualified to talk about ethics than any of my colleagues who’ve ever worked for a newspaper (well, most), but at this point, I’m the only one willing to talk about it. Although, a few of my colleagues love when I talk about ethics and piss people off because, hey, get the popcorn. To be fair, I may also be the only one dumb enough.

My concern isn’t to target a specific individual or to have a dispute with someone I dislike. Heck, some violators are really nice guys. I actually like most of my colleagues. I’m afraid if cartoonists do away with ethics then at some point, we won’t be considered journalists anymore. At what point do we get replaced with memes and AI art? Some editors have actually proposed that.

When the Pulitzer Prizes combined our division with graphic artists, the AAEC sent a letter signed by numerous Pulitzer winners and finalists. I do respect the herding-cats part of it, but while arguing that we should have our own category for a journalism award, we included the signature of the guy who now works for Sputnik, a Russian state-owned propaganda outlet, NOT a journalism outlet. he was also fired by the Los Angeles Times for making shit up in his column., which is probably how you go from the L.A. Times to Sputnik.

A syndicate that sells cartoons to news outlets has started distributing an anonymous political cartoonist. We’re not talking about a pen name like Tom Tomorrow (This Modern World) or Ruben Bolling (Tom the Dancing Bug). Their names are public and they’re not hiding. I’m talking about a cartoonist whose syndicate bills him as a “she or he” who “works anonymously”. The syndicate is selling him as an “anonymous” cartoonist. The Daily Cartoonist picked this up, which I believe I instigated because I’m a pain in the ass. This is a violation of every credible news outlet’s ethics policy. Yet, cartoons by “Rivers” have run in Politico, The Week, and even The Washington Post (I’ve yelled at each of them for this. Told I’m a pain). There is no debate that this is unethical. The owner of the syndicate, who makes his living selling content to newspapers, told me that he has no problem syndicating an anonymous cartoonist. The most frustrating thing here is that a syndicate, that’s actually operated by a political cartoonist, is telling every publisher and editor in the country that we’re not journalists, just to make a buck.

Because of journalism ethics, I can’t out the “anonymous” cartoonist here because I’m only 99 percent sure of his identity.

And then, there’s the issue of cartoonists who base their opinions on outright lies, conspiracy theories, and bullshit. Spin is justifiable to an extent as long as you’re not telling lies. Creative license is a tool in satire, but we’re not discussing talking elephants and donkeys here. I’m talking about spreading untruths about voter fraud, immigrants voting, and what’s on Hunter’s laptop (it’s all dicks) just to push your right-wing talking points. There are syndicates selling this stuff to newspapers without any accountability, and they’re being published. Lazy racist lies are NOT a counterpoint.

What’s not for certain, but has been discussed occasionally is tracing. Several years ago, a cartoonist was busted tracing characters from another cartoonist’s work (and it was his second time), and everyone pretty much agreed that was wrong. In fact, the tracer was fired twice. But what about tracing photos? There are several cartoonists who are tracing photos that don’t belong to them. I’m not talking about looking at a photo for reference, which we all do. I’m talking about placing a sheet of paper (or a layer for those drawing digitally) over a photo and tracing it instead of drawing a proper caricature. I didn’t realize until recently that this is pretty common in the business. But is it unethical?

I talked to an ethics expert and he believes what’s more concerning is the legality of it. Is the tracer plagiarizing from a photographer? Other cartoonists, who don’t trace, don’t believe there’s anything wrong with it while others think it’s a violation. So, it’s not really settled, but I think the tracers have answered it for us. Is it ethical to trace from photos? If it is, why hide it?

None of the cartoonists who trace admits it that I’m aware of. Hell, some even go to great lengths to hide it. They’ll post photos of their hand holding a pen over the drawing as if saying, “See? I really drew it.” Others will post videos of them crosshatching after the outline of the face is done. Some will try to hide it by enlarging and reducing the photo while they trace, so if anyone does a layer on top of another layer in Photoshop to compare, they won’t get a perfect match. Tricky.

I know of a few cartoonists who’ve made hobbies of doing the Photoshop comparison of suspected traced cartoons. There’s a club.

What I found really ironic was that a few days ago, a cartoonist shared his latest work, which was traced from an Associated Press photo, and added the hashtags “liar” and “ethics.” What really made this ironic is that the cartoon was on George Santos. I’m sure Tracey was oblivious to the irony.

I’ve heard some readers defend the tracers saying it’s just a method to the end result. Who can argue if it looks good? And some of the stuff really does look great. But, if that’s the case, and it is legitimate, then be transparent. Admit you trace and it’s part of your “process.” What are you afraid of? Honestly, I don’t think any journalism outlet will care at this point. Maybe the tracers are afraid readers will believe they can’t draw. I used to believe the George Santos hypocrite was a phenomenal artist and envied his skill but after looking at his tracings for the past few years, I realize he really can’t draw.

If tracing isn’t an ethical violation, is hiding it one? Is it ethical to sell it to outlets without informing the editor it was traced? Is it ethical when people compliment you on your amazing art skills not to tell them you didn’t actually draw it? is it ethical to sell the original without telling the buyer you traced it? I don’t think any of it’s ethical. Hiding it is dishonest and tells me the tracers agree with me that it’s unethical.

My main point is that all journalists have to be transparent because we can’t trust politicians to be. I believe my association should at least have a discussion about this because we are journalists…or at least we used to be. If we’re not willing to talk about ethics in journalism or have a policy on it, then are we still journalists? Adhering to ethics will maintain our status as journalists. And the AAEC did talk about creating an ethics policy in 2011 when the last big plagiarism scandal hit…and then it quietly went away.

All journalists, unlike Republicans, are required to subscribe to ethics. That includes political cartoonists.

Music note: I listened to Nirvana’s “Bleach” album.

Facebook Suspension Update: My suspension is over and I want to thank everyone who shared my cartoons, blogs, and videos on the platform during my absence. Since I only had about ten days between 30-day suspensions, some of my readers are talking about having a pool on how long until my next suspension.

Signed prints: The signed prints are just $40.00 each. Every cartoon on this site is available. You can pay through PayPal. If you don’t like PayPal, you can snail mail it to Clay Jones, P.O. Box 3721, Fredericksburg, VA 22402. I can mail the prints directly to you or if you’re purchasing as a gift, directly to the person you’re gifting.

Notes on my book, Tales From The Trumpster Fire: There are 19 copies of my book in stock, which go for $45.00 each, signed. Also, I have copies of my first book from 1997, Knee-Deep in Mississippi available for $20.00.

Tip Jar: if you want to support the cartoonist, please send a donation through PayPal to clayjonz@gmail.com. You can also snail it to P.O. Box 3721, Fredericksburg, VA 22402.

Watch me draw:

A Bwahaha Lawyer


Cassidy Hutchinson was an aide in the Trump White House (sic). She gave explosive and damaging testimony to the January 6 Committee investigating the attack on the capitol and Trump’s attempts to steal the election.

Among the revelations provided by Hutchinson is that Trump demanded to join a crowd of his supporters at the Capitol, raged against his Secret Service protection after they refused to take him, showed approval for his supporters carrying weapons, endorsed chants of hanging his own vice president, and knew he lost the 2020 election fairly to Joe Biden.

Hutchinson testified that her boss, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, told her shortly after Trump tried to get Georgia’s Secretary of State to make up votes and swing the state from Biden to him, “He knows it’s over. He knows he lost. But we are going to keep trying.”

Meadows also told her, “He’s just so angry at me all the time. I can’t talk to him about anything post-White House without him getting mad that we didn’t win.”

She also testified that John Ratcliffe, the former director of national intelligence, told her Trump knew he lost but did not want to concede.

That’s damning testimony, that Trump knew he lost but still tried to remain in the White House. It shows that Trump knew he was committing sedition and making a coup attempt.

Naturally, Trump World didn’t want Hutchinson to give this testimony, so they hired a lawyer for her. This lawyer, Stefan Passantino, is a former Trump White House (sic) lawyer. He encouraged Hutchinson NOT to cooperate.

Passantino told Hutchinson, “We just want to focus on protecting the president.” He also told her, “We all know you’re loyal. Let’s just get you in and out, and this day will be easy, I promise.” 

She also testified that Passantino encouraged her to avoid mentioning the incident of Trump lunging at the Secret Service when they refused to take him to the capitol. Passantino advised her to say that she did not recall the event if she was asked about it. “The less you remember, the better,” he told her.

Passantino also told Hutchinson that she would not have to pay his bills. “We’re not telling people where funding is coming from right now. Don’t worry. We’re taking care of you.”

During her first testimony, before the committee, she did as Passantino asked, but then took a break from the interview and told Passantino in a hallway that she felt as though she had lied to the committee by avoiding talking about the incident. She testified that Passantino tried to assuage her by arguing that saying she did not recall was not the same as lying.

She quoted him saying, “They don’t know what you know, Cassidy. They don’t know that you can recall some of these things.” After that first interview with the committee, she said Passantino told her that he would help her get her “a really good job in Trump world.”

She quoted him again saying, “We’re going to get you taken care of. We want to keep you in the family.”

She also testified that another aide to Mark Meadows, Ben Williamson, called her with a message from Meadows, stating, “Mark wants you to know that he knows you’re loyal and he knows you’ll do the right thing tomorrow and that you’re going to protect him and the boss (Trump). You know, he knows that we’re all on the same team and we’re all a family.” That’s some real gangster shit, “we know you’re loyal.” Everyone knows that’s code for, “if you’re not loyal, bad things will happen to you.”

Other witnesses testified that they received messages telling them that “Mr. Trump is watching you.”

Hutchinson fired Passantino and hired her own lawyer, not one provided by “Trump World.” Maybe the worst part of this is that Passantino was an ethics lawyer for the Trump White House (sic).

What’s an ethics lawyer? An ethics lawyer gives advice and counsels other lawyers on ethics. In case you’re a Republican, “ethics” covers morals, principles, and doing the right thing over the wrong thing. It’s not always clear-cut what is right and wrong, so an “expert” or a “practitioner” is staffed to offer guidance.

For example: In my business of editorial cartooning, there is some discussion over the ethics of tracing a photo instead of drawing it freehand. Some cartoonists believe this is wrong, others think it’s perfectly fine, and there’s a middle ground for those who don’t care that others do it but feel it’d be wrong if they did it. I’m on the side that believes it’s wrong, but am I right? I wanted to get a professional opinion so I talked to an ethics specialist from the Society of Professional Journalists, and it’s still not entirely clear. I believe the proof that is it wrong is that none of the multiple cartoonists who do trace never admit they do it, and they try to cover it up. When I see these guys get compliments for their “artwork,” and they thank the compliment giver or remain silent, that tells me they know they’re cheating. But since none of us are experts on journalism ethics, I talked to someone who specializes in it.

So, what is an ethics lawyer in Trump World? It’s a lawyer without ethics. It’s paying somebody to tell you what you want to hear. Most people who have dealt with a lot of lawyers have been told many times stuff they didn’t want to hear, Like “you’re going to jail.” Trump hired lawyers like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell who told him he won the election even though he clearly lost. Trump hires lawyers to lie to the FBI that all stolen documents were returned to the National Archives from Mar-a-Lago.

An ethics lawyer in Trump World will tell you the bad stuff is OK. An ethics lawyer in Trump World will tell you it’s OK to do the bad stuff because Mr. Trump is very powerful and will take care of you…and he’s watching you. An ethics lawyer in Trump World won’t tell you that Trump has a long history of demanding loyalty while giving none.

I think in Trump World, lawyers tell him he’s not going to jail…but if they can persuade people like Cassidy Hutchinson to lie by promising them jobs, then she’ll go to jail instead of Donald Trump. Don’t believe me? Ask Michael Cohen.

In Trump World, lawyers are more like accomplices and partners in crime.

Facebook Suspension Update: There are 19 days left in my Facebook suspension for typing the word “Taliban.” Here’s Quannah’s countdown clock.

Signed prints: The signed prints are just $40.00 each. Every cartoon on this site is available. You can pay through PayPal. If you don’t like PayPal, you can snail mail it to Clay Jones, P.O. Box 3721, Fredericksburg, VA 22402. I can mail the prints directly to you or if you’re purchasing as a gift, directly to the person you’re gifting.

Notes on my book, Tales From The Trumpster Fire: There are 19 copies of my book in stock, which go for $45.00 each, signed. Also, I have copies of my first book from 1997, Knee-Deep in Mississippi available for $20.00.

Tip Jar: if you want to support the cartoonist, please send a donation through PayPal to clayjonz@gmail.com. You can also snail it to P.O. Box 3721, Fredericksburg, VA 22402.

Watch me draw:

Cuomo No-No


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Disclaimer: I freelance for CNN. I draw one cartoon each week for their opinion newsletter. Now, if I worked for Fox News, I wouldn’t have had to tell you that.

CNN fired Chris Cuomo on Saturday. His show occupied the 9:00 PM timeslot which goes head-to-head nightly against MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show (who is also leaving soon) and Fox News’ Tucker Carlson tonight (who’s never going to leave). While it’s going to be difficult for CNN to replace someone who sat in the 9:00 PM chair, it’ll be harder to replace the handoff-show banter between Cuomo and Don Lemon, whose two-hour show begins at 10:00 PM.

CNN already walked a tightrope with Chris Cuomo as his brother was governor of New York. He really couldn’t cover any news about his brother. But, during the pandemic, he would have his brother on which was very entertaining as they’d bicker and insult each other as brothers do. Once when Chris mentioned his wife had given him a haircut, big brother commented that judging from the haircut his wife had given him, she must be harboring a deep resentment against Chris. After Andrew received a COVID test during one of his live briefings (to show how easy it was), Chris presented him with a Q-tip that looked to be about four feet long. It was entertaining stuff, especially to those who have siblings. But the fine line between news and family was eventually crossed.

During Andrew Cuomo’s sex scandal, his brother Chris wasn’t able to cover the story. He mentioned that on the air. All seemed on the up-and-up, but it wasn’t. As it turns out, Chris was helping Andrew with strategy, mostly with how to deal with the press coverage. Chris even used his contacts at other networks to inform Andrew and his team of impending stories on the scandal.

It had been known for months that Chris had some involvement with his brother’s defense. He had said, “I’m not an adviser. I’m a brother. I wasn’t in control of anything. I was there to listen and offer my take.” But a document dump by New York Attorney General Letitia James after an investigation into Andrew’s sexcapade showed that while Chris was working as one of CNN’s top anchors, he was also effectively working as an unpaid aide to the governor.

The dump revealed multiple texts between Chris and several aides and allies of the governor where he sought to use his connections in the press to help prepare Andrew’s team as accusers started to make their stories public.

CNN put Chris on “indefinite hiatus” on Tuesday and hired a law firm to investigate. The network issued a statement saying, “When Chris admitted to us that he had offered advice to his brother’s staff, he broke our rules and we acknowledged that publicly. But we also appreciated the unique position he was in and understood his need to put family first and job second.”

“However,” the network said, “these documents point to a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew. As a result, we have suspended Chris indefinitely, pending further evaluation.”

The investigation brought new information to light and the head of CNN, Jeffrey Zucker, fired Chris Cuomo on Saturday. It was the right call.

Journalists are not supposed to work with people they cover. They definitely should not help them craft political strategy to aid their campaigns or administrations. MSNBC’s Morning Joe hosts, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were huge friends with Trump. Trump even offered to conduct their marriage ceremony, as a president can do that (like a boat captain. Didn’t you ever watch Love Boat? Though, Trump’s boat would probably be called “Grope Boat”). Joe And Mika even named their pet bunny “Donald Fluffy Trump.” I always suspected Trump was a fluffer. MSNBC never held their on-air couple accountable for their overly-friendly relationship with Trump.

But it’s Fox News where journalism ethics truly go to die. Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro have both spoken at Trump rallies. AT Trump rallies. They were speakers on the stage campaigning for Trump. Hannity argues he’s not a journalist, which we are aware of, but he’s on a supposed news network. Whether he believes he’s a journalist or not, he should still have to abide by the ethics of journalism. It’s bad enough Sean, Tucker, and the rest of the Fox News crowd of on-air white nationalists promote conspiracy theories and outright bullshit, but going on the campaign trail with someone they cover should not be allowed. It doesn’t even have to be investigated. It’s on the air.

But it gets worse. Sean Hannity and Donald Trump, during the Trump presidency (sic), would have late-night phone sessions. These two were trading sweet nothings on a nightly basis while conducting political strategy. And Chris Cuomo was fired for helping his brother. Personally, I think being the president’s (sic) personal fluffer for four-straight years is a greater violation of journalism ethics than helping your brother (not that I’m excusing that).

So this week when you witness white nationalist Nazi turdlings doing the happy dance while gleefully praising the dumping of Chris Cuomo for violating journalism ethics, keep all that Fox shit in mind.

But, Sean Hannity does have a point. Fox News is not journalism. But, maybe Fox News should stop pretending that it’s an actual news source.

Creative note: I didn’t listen to any music today because I was watching football while drawing this cartoon.

Signed prints: The signed prints are just $40.00 each. Every cartoon on this site is available. You can pay through PayPal. If you don’t like PayPal, you can snail mail it to Clay Jones, P.O. Box 3721, Fredericksburg, VA 22402. I can mail the prints directly to you or if you’re purchasing as a gift, directly to the person you’re gifting.

Notes on my book, Tales From The Trumpster Fire: There are 18 copies of my book in stock, which go for $45.00 each, signed. Also, I have copies of my first book from 1997, Knee-Deep in Mississippi available for $20.00.

Tip Jar: if you want to support the cartoonist, please send a donation through PayPal to clayjonz@gmail.com. You can also snail it to P.O. Box 3721, Fredericksburg, VA 22402.

Watch me draw:

Alarmed Over Ethics


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After Paul Ryan was reelected as Speaker of the House yesterday he addressed his colleagues and said “we are not here to be. We are here to do.” It’s what the Republicans are doing in Congress that should concern us all.

What was the very first priority for House Republicans on the first day of the 115th Congress? Kill Obamacare? Strike down the Iran nuclear agreement? Tax cuts for corporations? Blast environmental regulations? Give themselves pay raises and go on a recess? Give Democrats wedgies? None of that.

The first thing they did was prove they have no intentions of actually draining the swamp and they held a secret vote at night to gut the semi-independent office that investigates House ethics.

Why would Republicans do something like this? That’s a rhetorical question. Now that they have the majority in the House, Senate, and a president-elect who believes conflicts of interests and ethics don’t apply to him, they figured it shouldn’t apply to them either. After all, their new leader celebrated New Year’s Eve at his golf club with business partners and guests who paid $575 a piece to party with The Donald (club members had a $50 discount).

Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy disagreed with the vote. Trump joined them and criticized it on his favorite platform, Twitter. They weren’t so much against getting rid of the ethics office as they were with the timing of the move. They’ll be fine with it if, and when, it comes later during this session. It will come later.

House members were bombarded with calls from an angry public. This maneuver, orchestrated by Virginian Republican Bob Goodlatte, would have prevented the office from investigating potentially criminal allegations, allowed lawmakers on the House Ethics Committee to shut down any O.C.E. investigation and, for good measure, gagged the office’s staff members in their dealings with the news media.

While Trump was tweeting faster than a speeding bullet criticizing the timing of the vote, his number one gaslighter Kellyanne Conway was on television saying House Republicans have a “mandate” to curb “overzealousness” over ethics. I don’t remember that issue being pressed on the campaign trail at all. Do you? Again, that was another rhetorical question. I think going out with Kellyanne Conway would resemble a mandate (Sorry. That was sexist. I couldn’t resist).

The Office of Congressional Ethics was created in 2008, by Democrats, after  a series of bribery and corruption scandals slammed both parties and sent three House members to jail. Four of the Republicans who joined the Goodlatte gang have previously been investigated by the office.

After the quick outrage the GOP did a huge pivot and dropped it and the issue has gone back to the House to be “studied.” What they’re really doing is studying the best time to whip it out again. Probably sneak it into a bill honoring veterans or a Kentucky race horse. Who knows.

This also shows that as soon as Trump breaks the law and violates his presidential oath, probably on January 21, that this House will have little concern of holding him accountable.

Kellyanne Conway will tell you that’s a mandate.

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