Does Talent Trump Bad Behavior?

By

Leonard Zwelling

The list goes on.

Prominent figures in entertainment, politics, and business are admitting (at least some are) to having misbehaved in a terrible fashion. It is only men to date, but bullying behavior knows no gender bounds and it is only a matter of time until some young man will come forward claiming to have been lured into some lurid scenario by an older woman. Count on it.

The first thing I don’t quite get is why Cosby did not open this dam, but Harvey Weinstein did.

What Bill Cosby stood accused of doing is every bit as awful as the behavior of Weinstein, Louis C. K. and Roy Moore, but for some reason, the Cosby accusations were held out as a one off. Clearly, they were not.

Second, does anyone know what appropriate punishment is? It may be just what is happening. The former good names of these men are being trashed in the court of public opinion. They may never work again in their chosen professions and some of the men, Charlie Rose comes to mind, will probably be ruined. There may be nothing a real court could do that would be any worse than what social media is accomplishing at lightning speed.

Third, and most critical, what does one do with the talented miscreant?

I think these folks come in two types—the admitters and the deniers.

Some of the men seem to have taken some responsibility for their evil deeds. Al Franken, Kevin Spacey, and Mr. Weinstein have admitted to acting in a harmful fashion to other people to some extent even if denying actual wrongdoing. That’s a start and a lot better than President Trump or Roy Moore who admit no wrongdoing despite the Hollywood Access tape and the testimony of a host of abused women who were girls when Moore assaulted them, they claim.

As would be expected of the names that make the news, each of the men has exhibited some skill in some aspect of human endeavor on a public stage. It may be politics or comedy, if you can tell the difference, but for the most part, these were skilled performers. No one can doubt the ultimate ability of Charlie Rose to interview. I believe that he kept the CBS Morning Show afloat despite the talent of his co-hosts. It was Charlie the rest of the world came to be interviewed by. With him gone, we shall see how the morning entry from CBS fares.

What do you do when the boss or the talent or both misbehave? What happens when there is no HR department and the executive producer’s attitude is “that’s just Charlie being Charlie?” The answer is that everyone pays.

The talent gets no pass because of that talent. Ask OJ as he sat in jail, even if it was for the wrong crime. The law and the court of public opinion must be equal for all.

Now this is something that has plagued academic medicine for years. There were always brilliant doctors hitting on the nurses and abusing medical students. None of this should have been tolerated, but much of it was. It can be no longer.

Recently, the faculty of MD Anderson was put through such torture. The last president was a bad actor with a horrible temper and a weakness for self-serving behavior that would enrich his pocketbook and his ego. The bad behavior was tolerated for years by the people responsible for making sure this does not happen. I mean those in Austin who, for now, have oversight at all UT facilities despite the fact that MD Anderson could use its own local board. My sources tell me that the public only knows half of the misbehavior perpetrated on MD Anderson’s integrity by the last crew of leaders. But Friday is a new dawn.

Let’s decide today that no matter how talented anyone is, the rules of decorum apply. I sense that Dr. Pisters would agree with this position, but that does not prevent him from articulating it right up front. There is one set of rules for everyone. Interpersonal behavior, conflict of interest, and self-dealing all will have standards by which all will be measured and held accountable.

And it doesn’t matter how many papers one publishes, patients one bills, or grants one obtains, if you break the rules of common decency, you pay the price. What a concept!

Talent is not an excuse for bad manners. It is easy to forget this. If the only good to emerge from this rash of revelations about powerful men is a reminder that the rules apply to all, that may have to be enough. These events have been sad, but unmasking them is long overdue.

Leonard Zwelling