Carr Maintenance

( – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)

Does Howie Carr play by his own rules?

The legendary Boston Herald columnist and WRKO-AM radio host has found himself in the media-ethics crosshairs over his appearances at fundraisers for Republican candidates in New England. Carr was quite defiant in his July 18 Herald column, declaring, “What this sudden concern by the moonbats about my ethics really proves is how frightened they are about Nov. 2. In 2004, I had a fund-raiser at my house for then-Rep. Scott Brown during his first state Senate race. I even wrote about it, and nobody harrumphed. There was zero outcry from the moonbats…Here’s the problem–if you have only 15 Republicans in the 160-member House, it’s one-party rule, and one-party rule means the absolute most crooked hacks will rise to the top–think Felon Finneran, or future WRKO host Sal DiMasi.”

However, former Boston Phoenix media columnist Dan Kennedy noted: “There are certain ethical rules that journalists–even rabidly opinionated columnists–try to follow. You don’t donate money to candidates. You don’t put signs on your lawn. You don’t put bumper stickers on your car…[Appearances at fundraisers], unfortunately, have long since become acceptable for radio talk-show hosts, and that is Carr’s main job. But he’s still a columnist for the Boston Herald.”

Obviously, Carr’s hardcore fans will disagree with the contention that he has committed an ethical breach by appearing at GOP fundraisers. Even if Carr’s appearances constitute an undisputed violation of journalistic principles, one must ask: Should these events constitute a breach of said principles?  

It may be time to rethink the notion that opinion writers should avoid the explicit embrace of political parties. Why shouldn’t obviously partisan columnists and commentators make clear where they stand in terms of support for, or opposition to, certain political parties?

I’ve long felt that major media entities should be open about which political organizations they prefer, and not pretend to be, for lack of a better phrase, fair and balanced: it’s not like anyone would really be bothered if, for example, the New York Post openly declared its allegiance to the GOP. Why not move towards this model, starting with partisan columnists and commentators?

Let’s say Frank Rich of the New York Times wanted to raise money to help Democrats win the 2012 presidential election. Should that be considered a breach of journalistic integrity? After all, Rich is in the opinion business, and he clearly believes that the Republican Party panders to the most retrograde elements of American society. If his strong feelings compel him to work to keep the Democratic Party strong, is he really harming anybody, or any principle?

Can it not be argued that the folks who are most irritated by Carr’s actions want to maintain the ideal of a non-partisan media, an ideal that cannot possibly exist in our hyper-partisan age? America is an ideologically segregated society engaged in an uncivil war over the country’s future–why shouldn’t the country’s most prominent opinion leaders openly partake in this war effort?

Yes, there’s a compelling argument to be made that the Fourth Estate should at least attempt to unify Americans, and that having columnists and commentators blatantly wave the flag for Democrats or Republicans frustrates that goal. However, if such a goal cannot actually be achieved, then there’s no real harm in allowing partisan columnists and commentators to pursue partisanship to its logical end, is there?

Of course, there is a downside to having columnists and commentators openly support political parties–if the parties do things that are explicitly harmful to the country, these opinion leaders will be scorned by serious-minded Americans. Other than that, no harm, no foul.

If Carr wants to promote the GOP, fine–but what if the party screws up down the line?  

About D. R. Tucker