The Media Message on Deflategate is That Honesty is Only for Everyday Americans
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published May 10, 2015 by The Washington Times.
Unlike the 2014 Little League World Series champs, who lost their trophy because they fielded ineligible players, the New England Patriots are not going to lose their Super Bowl rings over Deflategate.
It will be instructive to see what the National Football League does over the lying and cheating that has been exposed. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is on the hot seat. He cannot plausibly scramble his way out of his previous contention that he knew nothing about the deflating of footballs in the Patriots‘ 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game. The Pats went on to defeat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX.
For non-football fans: Deflating the ball makes it easier to throw, and each team provides its own footballs for its offense. An NFL investigation found that Patriots locker room personnel almost certainly deflated 11 of 12 footballs after referees tested them, and that Mr. Brady “was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities.”
Since the balls were all precisely deflated to the same illegal level, the odds against that happening spontaneously are astronomical.
Nonetheless, Mr. Brady professed astonishment after the Colts cried foul. Evidence has since emerged that Mr. Brady lavishly rewarded the equipment managers, and that the managers texted one another about the scheme.
If nothing really painful happens to Mr. Brady or the Patriots, it would be one more high-profile example of people in public life getting away with dishonesty, which is culturally corrosive. I say this in sorrow, having rooted for the Pats for many years.
Cynicism and misconduct grow when certain people seem to be beyond accountability.
The cultural damage was enormous when Bill Clinton not only was caught in lies about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, but also that he got away with it and has prospered mightily since leaving office. Think of the messages sent to America’s children: Character doesn’t count, marital vows are a joke, and changing the definitions of words like “is” are just something you do to get people off your back.
On April 14, we learned that the Internal Revenue Service, whose wrath knows no bounds for “everyday American” taxpayers who make mistakes on their tax forms, has retained thousands of IRS employees who violated the tax code and even gave many of them promotions and raises. Above the law? It certainly seems to be the case.
The Treasury inspector general for tax administration’s report notes that, according to federal code, “The IRS shall terminate employment of any IRS employee if there is a final determination that the employee committed certain acts of misconduct, including willful violations of tax law, unless such penalty is mitigated by the IRS Commissioner.”
It turns out that for over a decade, more than 13,000 IRS employees filed inaccurate returns, and 1,580 were deemed intentional cheaters. Of those, 61 percent kept their jobs.
This is the same IRS whose officials flatly denied that orders had come down from the top in Washington to target Tea Party groups before the 2012 elections and deny them nonprofit status. It was just some rogue officials in Cincinnati, we were told.
The head of the nonprofit division, Lois G. Lerner, not only refused to testify under oath to Congress about the IRS jihad against conservatives, but somehow also managed to “lose” thousands of pertinent emails. Hillary Rodham Clinton one-upped her by not only ditching thousands of emails from her stint as secretary of state but also by wiping her personal server clean.
And while we’re on the subject of cover-up, nothing has happened to those who got caught brazenly lying about what triggered the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012.
For two weeks, Obama administration officials, most notably then-United Nations Ambassador Susan E. Rice, President Obama himself and Mrs. Clinton, insisted that an obscure anti-Islamic video triggered a spontaneous riot. Thanks to State Department emails obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests by Judicial Watch, it has become clear that officials in Washington knew about the nature of the attack in real time.
It had nothing to do with a video. Is anybody ever going to face any repercussions about the lies surrounding the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans?
Compared with these scandals, Deflategate is small potatoes, despite the outsized media attention it’s getting because of America’s obsession with sports and celebrities.
But it is a big deal in terms of its impact on a culture that seems increasingly indifferent to truth while rewarding success at any cost.
The Little League team whose adult leadership cheated paid a very steep price.
The NFL should tackle this problem in their own camp with some very strong sanctions.