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Unethical? No One Cares

By Marty Nemko

I was watching an interview with Martha Stewart recently. The interviewer, Neil Cavuto, asked, “Since you got out of prison, how is the public treating you?” Her response: “Most people are very positive. They say things like, ‘Can I hold your hand?’ or “Can my husband take a picture of me with you?”

Stewart is a fabulously wealthy woman convicted of obstruction charges related to insider stock trading. That screwed the little guys who paid more for the stock than they should have. Yet the public remains in adoration. From the day she was indicted to today, the stock price of Martha Stewart’s company has doubled.

A new book summarizing a three-year investigation concluded that San Francisco Giants superstar Barry Bonds frequently used steroids. That gave him an unfair advantage over players who played by the rules. Yet, this week, when Bonds was introduced on Opening Day, the crowd welcomed him with a round of applause.

Bill Clinton swore he never had sex with that woman….and then admitted he lied. Yet the public swarms him like a rock star.

Not-guilty verdicts aside, many experts and members of the public believe Michael Jackson molested little boys and O.J. Simpson killed his wife, yet, everywhere they go, fans swoon.

Donald Trump failed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in loans. As New Jersey Record columnist Mike Kelly wrote, “If we still had debtors’ prisons, Trump would be in the dungeon.” Trump’s extramarital carryings-on with Marla Maples were well-publicized. Yet how does the public treat him? Like a God. On the lecture circuit, Trump sells out huge venues and NBC-TV rewarded him by creating The Apprentice for him.

Sean Penn used heroin, was arrested for attacking a photographer, and pled guilty to a domestic assault charge. No problem for the public. He’s one of America’s most popular actors.

Illegal aliens sneak ahead of legal applicants for U.S. residency, and many of these illegals quickly commit another crime—obtaining false IDs—so they can get full welfare and other social service benefits that are supposed to be for legal residents. How do we react? By renaming them “undocumented immigrants,” rewarding them with free education and health care, and bestowing automatic U.S. citizenship on any of their children born in the U.S.

Let’s face it. Despite all the college ethics courses, exhortations from clergy, and high-minded hypocritical blather from politicians, the public doesn’t seem to care a whit about ethics. Not only do people excuse shoddy ethics among others, many people are blatantly unethical themselves. Depending on which study you believe, one-third to 45 percent of resumes contain lies. A similar percentage of people admit to cheating on their income taxes. Over 70 percent of high school and college students admit to plagiarizing papers or cheating on exams. Many of my job-seeking clients ask me to help them concoct a story, true or not, that puts the best face on why they’re looking for a job.

Advice I’d Give My Child

Yes, many people are trustworthy, but as my father used to say, “A key to success in career and in life: “Respect, but suspect.” Or as the old Arab saying goes, “Trust in Allah, but tie your camel tight.”

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