This week was startling; not because of the many goings on such as the Paul Manafort trial, but because it was revealed by Omarosa Manigault that she had secretly taped President Donald Trump.
While I love new technology, secret taping has gotten out of control.
Those of us who are old enough remember the tapes President Nixon made when he was in the White House. We were made aware of the 18-minute gap on one of the tapes, and we were aware of how his secretary claimed it happened. The Washington Post reported:
President Nixon had been using a voice-activated tape recording system for all Oval Office conversations, White House aide Alexander Butterfield revealed to the Senate on July 16, 1973. Presidents since Harry Truman had recorded some conversations, but Nixon’s recording of everything was unique. Two days after Butterfield’s revelation, the taping system was dismantled, and the tapes put under Alexander Haig’s custody. On November 17, 1973, the White House informed Federal District Judge John Sirica that the 18-1/2 minute Nixon-Haldeman conversation of June 20, 1972, had been erased.
Nixon’s Secretary Rose Mary Woods took the blame for the first five minutes of the erasure. She said that she had been transcribing the tape, and when she reached to take a phone call, her foot hit a pedal on the recording machine, inadvertently causing the tape player to “record” over the original tape’s contents. Reporters were called to the White House to watch her perform a re-enactment, and the photos of her performing a tremendous stretch, which she supposedly held for five minutes, were rejected as implausible. Moreover, the particular tape recording machine does not operate the way she had claimed; simply pressing the foot pedal to “record” would not initiate a recording unless the play button was being manually depressed at the very same time.
Now we have other tapings. The first was by President Trump’s lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen. How does a lawyer, who was supposedly paid to do work for client Donald Trump, tape a conversation between him and his client and not tell his client? I am not a lawyer, but it should go against all principles of what the legal profession stands for. In 2001, the New York Bar Association said it was not necessarily unethical for a lawyer to tape conversations with a client provided it was legal in the jurisdiction where it was being taped. Some states say taping is legal if one party agrees, and some states say that it is not OK unless both parties agree.
Now this week, Omarosa said she secretly taped Trump during private conversations she had with him. The Daily Beast reports, “One person confirmed … they had heard at least one of her recordings featuring President Trump. Multiple sources familiar with the ‘Omarosa tapes’ described the recorded conversations between Trump and Manigault as anodyne, everyday chatter, but said they did appear to feature Trump’s voice, either over the phone or in-person. The mere existence of such recordings represents a dramatic betrayal of trust by a onetime confidante who has since abandoned years of professed loyalty to the president and has apparently decided to profit off her years of closeness to Trump.”
I am a journalist and I believe taping without both people’s consent is not ethical. As readers to this column know, I am not someone that supports Trump’s policies and behavior, but taping the president of the United States without their knowledge is, to me, completely unethical. Frankly, why would anyone do that? Only someone who has thought about destroying the person being taped would even think of it.
President Nixon wound up resigning after the existence of tapes were revealed. Lawyer Cohen might be indicted for tax evasion. Now Omarosa is planning on cashing in her tape and making a lot of money from her book.
Press Secretary Sanders said: “It’s sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media will now give her a platform, after not taking her seriously when she had only positive things to say about the President during her time in the administration.”
I don’t agree with Sarah Sanders on what she has said about Omarosa, but taping anyone without their knowledge and then cashing in later is not acceptable … and it is immoral.