Topic: Society

Barbara Walters and Star Jones
(June 2006)

It's true: as lies go, these are about as inconsequential as it gets. But Barbara Walters is a member of that rare breed known as "legendary journalists," and they are supposed to exemplify integrity, candor, trustworthiness and honesty, even when they are doing silly things like hosting "The View." Star Jones is a lawyer, who is forbidden by her professional ethics rules from engaging in "misrepresentation, dishonesty, fraud or deceit." Thus it was surprising and disillusioning to see Baba feign shock when Star Jones went off-script and announced that she would be leaving as one of the four co-hosts of ABC's daytime girl-talk show. And it was professional misconduct for Jones to lie to journalists for weeks by insisting that she "looked forward to another year" with Barbara and the gang.

Both Walters and Star had intentionally fed trade reporters false assurances that all was well between "The View" and its most flamboyant host. Barbara even stuck to the charade when Jones decided to spill the beans ahead of schedule on a live broadcast. "We had heard rumors…," Walter said deceitfully. Sure she had heard rumors, and she knew the rumors were true, because Walters' company produces "The View" and she had known for months that Jones was toast, supposedly because the show's fans don't like the newly thin, married, obsessively self-involved Jones as much as the former over-weight, single, obsessively self-involved version. Walters didn't play-act for long, telling reporters and her ABC audience that Jones had double-crossed her by prematurely announcing her departure after they had mapped out a meticulous exit timetable. She had engaged in a disinformation campaign so Star could leave "with dignity," Walters said.

The Scoreboard couldn't possibly care less about Star Jones, Barbara Walters or "The View." But as long as Walters continues to call herself a journalist, her integrity and honesty must be above reproach whether she is doing a newscast or engaging in pointless drivel. When she lied to her colleagues on the entertainment beat, she violated the ethics of her profession, just as Jones violated the rules of her legal profession by doing the same. Both flunked basic ethics tests in public, and they should understand that their credibility has been diminished. In Barbara Walters' field and in Jones', trust is everything. Dissipating that trust for any reason is a serious mistake; doing so for something as trivial as "The View" is ridiculous.

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