Washington & Lee ethics professor Ed Wasserman doubts that Ben Stein, who had written a Sunday business column for the New York Times, was actually fired for violating the paper’s code of ethics, as it stated.
Wasserman writes, “I’m not convinced. I pulled down four of Stein’s recent Times columns and was hard-pressed to find any whiff of financial wisdom. He seems to have styled them as ruminations on economics and public purpose. One was on the glories of salesmanship, another a look back at America’s ‘decline’ seen from 2089. I thought they were windy and self-indulgent. But they offered me no advice, and Stein never suggested I check my credit score.
“Conflict of interest could take another form, as The Times ban on outside PR work suggests. After all, somebody might trade on his status as a Times columnist for lucrative outside work (somebody like Thomas Friedman, the Times uber-columnist, who had to return a $75,000 speaking fee earlier this year and was not fired).
“In that respect, the column would be an audition for other gigs. But for Stein? This is a guy who has been shilling shilling for years — for nonstick cookware, paper towels, Clear Eyes and lately, alongside Shaquille O’Neal, for Comcast Cable — so he has long been on the wrong side of the PR taboo.”
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