Unethical politicking

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According to Rick Perry, scientists are increasingly questioning global warming as a man-made phenomenon. Literally, Perry said that “we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.” In his view, too much money has been spent in addressing this issue, since it is not proved that human beings cause global warming. “The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet to me is just nonsense,” Perry said.

Denying our responsibility in global warming may be seen as unethical by many people, although we are not considering this issue here. Rick Perry is not acting in an unethical way merely because he believes that human beings are not related to global warming; he is acting unethically mainly because he is lying by saying that scientist are more and more “questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

The 2009 report on climate change made by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which is sponsored by thirteen federal agencies, specifically says that “global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.” The report made by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading international body for the assessment of climate change, also says that “most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

The denial of man-made global warming is not only anecdotal, but it also interferes in science in a direct way. In fact, Texas has been recently accused of censoring global warming facts in a scientific research. Rick Perry may think that global warming has nothing to do with human actions, but when this point of view actually affects scientific development, ethics-related issues arise. This proves how subtle is the line between a respectable opinion and unethical politicking.

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Unfair reporting

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The Republican debate televised on CNBC on Wednesday was, according to some political analysts, the end of Rick Perry as a presidential candidate. The Governor of Texas was unable to come up with the name of the third agency he wants to get rid of. The hesitancy in his voice and his obvious feeling of nervousness greatly affected the Governor’s image. Few minutes later, however, Perry remembered that the third agency was the Energy Department.

The embarrassing moment was reported by local, national, and even international media. But some of them, like the CNN, did not mentioned that Perry ended up saying the name of the third agency. Although it was certainly a great mistake, the media should have let their audience know that, eventually, Rick Perry remembered it. Otherwise, they are reporting unfairly, since some important information is missing. In fact, not knowing something is much more serious than not remembering it at a particular moment. Avoiding to mention it may be considered paltering.

As professors Schauer and Zeckhauser point out, paltering is an intentional act in which “the speaker intends for the listener to have a misimpression.” Then, paltering includes the practice of fudging, twisting, shading, bending, stretching, slanting, exaggerating, distorting, whitewashing, and selective reporting. Not mentioning that Perry remembered the name of the third agency entails fudging and selective reporting, but is there a deliberate action in this case? If so, it should be considered paltering and, therefore, unethical and unfair reporting.

Perry and Gardasil

I got lobbied on this issue. I got lobbied by a 31-year-old young lady who had stage 4 cervical cancer.
Rick Perry

The use of Gardasil was approved in June 2006 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Eight months later, Governor Rick Perry required Texas girls to be vaccinated with Gardasil, which can prevent some types of HPV infections that may cause cervical cancer. Although Perry’s order was announced in 2007, it has become a big issue during this presidential campaign, especially among social conservative republicans, who accuse him of being controlled by external interests. Particularly, the company that produces Gardasil is Merck & Co., one of the most important pharmaceutical companies in the world.

Rick Perry has raised $17,168,589 for this presidential campaign – only beated by Obama and Romney – and $509,049 come from the Health sector. One of Perry’s top donors is Texas Oncology, the nation’s largest network of doctors dedicated exclusively to cancer research. Texas Oncology has promoted the use of Gardasil. However, any clear connection between Merck and Texas Oncology could be found.

Merck & Co. is supporting both Democrats and Republicans during the present campaign. In total, the pharmaceutical company has invested $295,150. In the previous campaign, when Gardasil was approved, Merck injected more money into Texas than into any other state. Even so, the donation given to Rick Perry ($6,000) does not seem important enough to have an influence on federal policies. Merck & Co.’s annual $50,000 contribution to the Republican Governors Association does not seem a conclusive pressing reason either – since the money does not go directly to Perry’s budget – although it may have an influence on Republican Governors’ policies.

The massive use of Gardasil in Texas (and nowadays also in other states) is undoubtedly bringing great profits to Merck & Co., but it does not mean that Perry got lobbied on the issue. Similarly, although there is no evidence of Perry’s political sale, this does not mean that Merck’s lobbying efforts had no repercussions at all. Further research should be done on this issue to clarify the possible underlying reason of Perry’s decision.