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50 shades of truth in Washington

As the definition of truthfulness and the standards for personal accountability continue to decline in our nation’s capital, and many do not seem to care, are similar patterns trickling into middle-market businesses? Is it becoming more acceptable to have 50 shades of truth in business dealings? - reported Miami Herald (US). Recent news reports of comments by 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl that President Donald Trump admitted to attacking the media to "discredit" journalists and minimize negative stories about himself are making these questions more pressing today. With our President publicly calling one of the leaders of our closest allies “dishonest,” who would have thought? Further intensifying matters, others around the President are reportedly following suit. Sometimes, after they learn what they said is not true, they seemingly fail to acknowledge or rectify their mistakes. They even double down! One wonders how anyone doing this could sleep at night. What lessons are our children learning? It seems that years back the traditional values of integrity and honesty were more important than today, which is quite sad. Where is Honest Abe when we need him? So, what should we do if we catch employees telling half-truths, some of which we know are deliberately fudged or outright lies? I never would have imagined myself having to dedicate a column to a topic that should be common sense, but unfortunately our nation’s current state of affairs leaves me no choice. First, let us be clear: Our word should be paramount. It is not OK to be dishonest, lie or misrepresent the truth in any way. Honesty in business dealings starts at the top of a company and is set by example. If one of our employees did to us what some members of our current administration are doing, would we give a warning or fire him or her outright? Of course, before doing anything, we should check with our human resources departments and legal counsel to help ensure we take the appropriate corrective measures to not create exposure or liability. As it pertains to our clients: Is it OK for employees to make promises they know they cannot deliver? Is there a distinction between when they are lying to themselves versus lying to us or our clients? Simply put, any form of misrepresentation or alteration of the truth to clients is never acceptable. No matter how difficult, it is always best to deal with others with honesty, transparency and authenticity. In addition to it being the ethical and moral thing to do, it is also good for business — because ultimately, people find out and their trust in us deteriorates or is irreparably lost, which will hurt our business. There is a big difference between a mistake and a lie. How should mistakes be handled? Again, it goes back to traditional values: Take ownership, apologize and do whatever is necessary to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again. Taking ownership and apologizing defuses the situation and helps us retain something priceless: our reputation and credibility. Additionally, in the event of a serious misrepresentation, including one that might involve criminal offenses, proactively taking the right steps such as immediately seeking legal counsel and notifying the authorities can reduce the penalties and/or jail time. The news is riddled with examples of high-profile business leaders brought down by wrongful acts that were further intensified by attempted cover-ups. Without a doubt, as social media and sites like Glassdoor continue to put businesses in a glass house, it is critical to dress the part and follow the right protocols. Regardless of what may be happening in our government, business owners should always do the right thing and heed the wise words of our mothers who told us that “honesty is the best policy.” *** Maybe there is a tipping point. It's certainly looking that way. Outrage over the Trump administration's policy of separating children from their parents at the border is clearly growing, and it looks as if the media are a driving force behind it. Social media, mainstream news media, you name it: Media outlets have finally gone all Howard Beale (no doubt because their audiences have). They're mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore, reported USA Today. It may have taken the sickening treatment of children to make that happen, but better late than never. Let's hope. Finally, we seem willing to call a lie a lie — sorry, a falsehood if you're the The New York Times — something that's been carefully avoided since President Donald Trump first began running for office. Finally, we seem willing to look beyond he said, she said false equivalencies, the anchor that's been dragging down meaningful reporting for far too long. Finally, we're saying what everyone has known for so long: Trump is lying. A lot. And it's hurting the country. But will this newfound courage matter? Trump and various administration officials have, in the past few days, defended the family-separation policy, blamed it on Democrats, said it was impossible to overturn without congressional action, justified it with biblical passages and denied it existed. Debate has raged over whether to call the chain-link-ringed areas the kids are being kept in "cages." The Border Patrol has acknowledged the accuracy of the word but is "uncomfortable" with it. It's probably pretty uncomfortable in those cages, too, no matter what you call them. For many people, this is just too much. And how do they know about it? The media, of course. The breaking point? Trump can put a stop to the separations himself; there's no need for Congress to act. He's told this kind of lie before, but this time, the media are willing to call him on it. Why? Perhaps it's because it involves children, and everyone is rightly horrified. Republicans, who have sometimes complained about Trump's policies but generally voted for them, complained. On Monday, ProPublica released an eight-minute tape of children crying while being separated from their parents and family members (listen above). Sen. John McCain tweeted that the policy is "an affront to the decency of the American people, and contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded." Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas introduced legislation he says would help keep families together. Every living first lady has expressed concern; Laura Bush's opinion piece in The Washington Post put it best: “I live in a border state,” Bush wrote. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.” And, of course, by Monday night, that one clarion signal of desperation rang: Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, treating the truth like a piñata and their Fox News shows like a stick, doled out blame everywhere but at the president's feet. (The president's favorite show, Fox & Friends, had earlier led the fake-blame charge. Ann Coulter, on a Fox News panel Sunday night, called the children seen crying in photos "child actors," but it's best not to dignify anything she says with reaction.) What's next? Again, though, the question: Will it matter? Won't the Fox News-watching, MAGA-hat-wearing crowd continue to look past the lies, the distortions, the blame game and continue to orbit around Planet Trump? Probably. So what? Let 'em. This gradual media awakening won't solve all of the problems with Trump. It may not even solve this one. It won't convert the non-believers who think of "media" as a five-letter word more obscene than all the four-letter ones they know. But it's a start.

June 20, 2018, 1:07 a.m. EDITED
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50 shades of truth in Washington