January 2005 Ethics Dunces

Richard Hatch

JANUARY 18--Richard Hatch, the first winner of CBS's "Survivor," was charged today with failing to report his $1 million reality TV windfall to the Internal Revenue Service.

As regular readers of the Scoreboard know, we try not to belabor the obvious here. There was no Scoreboard commentary about Sandy Berger sticking classified documents into his socks, or the CEO of Fannie Mae, Franklin Raines, bugging out with a 14 million dollar severance package and a 1.37 million dollar annual pension after running the organization into near financial ruin (a 9 billion dollar loss) by his own ineptitude. Anyone who needs an ethicist to point out that these sorts of things are wrong is beyond help. Occasionally, however, someone will do something so spectacularly arrogant, stupid and wrong that the Scoreboard is compelled to award an Ethics Dunce award despite its blatancy.

Congratulations, Richard Hatch.

Mr. Hatch guaranteed himself undying trivia fame as the winner of the first “Survivor” TV series, which he accomplished through Machiavellian game play and the creative tactic of unnerving his fellow competitors by parading around their temporary island home buck naked. Anyone who observed the skill with which he lied, deceived, and schemed his way to the one million dollar prize would hardly be shocked to learn that his conscience wouldn’t rebel at tax evasion. But to attempt to evade one’s civic duty to pay taxes on a million dollars obtained on national television, after fully exploiting this very public achievement with television and radio appearances, product endorsements, and all the other accoutrements of celebrity that America eagerly bestows on its short-term media stars, is beyond comprehension.

Last March, while giving a well-deserved Ethics Dunce designation to Janet Jackson for her Superbowl coming-out antics, we recalled Jimmy Durante’s famous rejoinder to the question, “Where are you going with that elephant?” in the Rodgers and Hart Broadway musical “Jumbo.”  Durante, who was attempting to escape with the largest elephant in captivity at the end of a rope, replied innocently, “Elephant? What elephant?” Ethics Scoreboard hereby establishes a special Richard Hatch “Jumbo” sub-category of Ethics Dunces.

“A million dollars? What million dollars?”


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