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  • Reverend James Squire

Next Man Up! Lemon and Carlson

The firing of Don Lemon and Tucker Carlson shocked the media world. Try not to rejoice in their bad fortune no matter how much you dislike them. That won’t be good for your soul. One thing for sure is that neither of them played competitive sports or served in the military. There was a sense that the bigger story was Carlson as he was extreme to a fault and brought in many more viewers to Fox News. In fact, he brought a lot of Russian viewers to view Fox. The response from some “the sky must be falling.”

But there was an important message that was forgotten and needed to be said, and you see it in sports and military operations all the time. It’s the mantra, “Next man up!” No one is indispensable. That is the attitude that creates humility. These two may feel that they have made their stations all that they are, but that is hubris because the stations made them. Beck and O’Reilly finally got that message. The Phillies baseball team has suffered major injuries and surgeries that have put stars on the bench, but you don’t hear a lot of “noise” about their plight. Remembering this slogan is important to any team effort.

There is something else in these firings particularly because both talking heads didn’t see this coming. They were caught off guard. Both received short notice! But everyone wants to know what happened. Both seem to have had a problematic history. Lemon accused of bad treatment of women which became public after an offhand statement of when he thought Nicki Haley was over the hill and beyond her prime. Carlson’s assault on democracy and the creation of a hostile workplace for women seemed to be part of his history. He was much more controversial.

But keep in mind the flurry of questions that asked “what really happened.” It is a graphic depiction of a point that I have made over and over that “we can only tolerate (meaning to move forward) that which we understand.”

Let’s keep in mind something else that I have written about which is “where you have money involved by definition you have ethics.” Fox and CNN could have reviewed their respective histories and indicated that it is clear that the two had offended a lot of people. Lemon had volunteered to go to a form of diversity training to show his remorse while Carlson just doubled down on his extreme rhetoric. Both stations gave them a quick exit knowing that the “less said is best said” in these situations.

I think that it came down to the issue that “where you have money, you have ethics.” It may have something to do with the recent settlement to Dominion, but I don’t see that as much as some think. Although it seems a lot of money to most of us, that was “chump change” for the Murdoch family. Many feel that Fox got off easy because a public trial would have exposed so much of the dirty linen at Fox, there was no apology, and there are still court cases to come from Smartmatic and a former producer of Carlson’s show is suing him and Fox.

There is a calculation that is used in ethics that shapes a lot of decisions. I think that it is the calculation that shaped Fox and CNN management. It all may come down to risk vs. reward and often those decisions, and certainly these recent firings, involve money. That decision model at times in bioethics gets attached to short term vs. long term results as well as autonomy (what is good for the person) vs. beneficence (what is good for the group) as well as justice vs. mercy. Carlson's attitude is seen in Barry Goldwater’s declaration that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” That idea is at the heart of conservative movement politics.

We are a culture, (and I must admit I subscribe at times to the statement) “that great risk yields great reward.” That approach can only occur in decision making when you have a certain amount of humility and you realize that “the next man or woman up” is there to replace you for the good of the team. The costs are high because sometimes they yield failure and a loss of significant money when others in power feel that you have lost your value.

There is a phrase in ethics that I believe was the bottom line for Fox and CNN. It is referred to as cost/risk/benefit analysis. Carlson and Lemon didn’t seem to have this on their awareness screen. That is why they didn’t see their firings coming. They focused on benefit. Carlson on risk, and both embraced the possible cost to their respective media stations.

But there is another cost that both Fox and CNN could not avoid and that is the cost of lack of integrity in their work world which depends upon it. Integrity is a valuable form of currency. You can’t do news without it.

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