A few weeks ago, a few days after President Obama’s speech on Middle East policy, a Fairfield county radio personality Tweeted “Follow the Money #Obama willing to lose Jewish vote because pol donations don’t have to be disclosed. More money from Arabs than Jews.” I immediately tweeted back asking for a link to what I considered a very serious accusation. There was no reply. I spent some time researching the claim, and found nothing justifying her claim that Obama accepted more money from Arabs than Jews. 

A day later, she claimed this MSNBC article as the source of her information. However, the article contains absolutely no information backing up the claim that the Obama accepts more money from Arabs than Jews, thus influencing his Middle East policy.

That weekend in synagogue, my Rabbi, who usually stays out of politics, gave a sermon about the necessity of speaking up for Israel. At the Kiddush afterward, I brought up the radio personality’s tweet, and posed the question: “Yes, we must speak up, but isn’t it important that we do so in an ethical and responsible way?”

This generated an important and lively discussion. One congregant said that we shouldn’t get caught up in the niceties of form, what counted was that we speak up. I disagreed, because I feel very strongly that the form ends up influencing the content of the debate.  Not only that, in Judaism there is the principle of lashon hara or “evil language,” which is held to damage the speaker, the one who is being spoken to, and the subject.

Interestingly, a visiting rabbi from Aish HaTorah in Israel agreed that tone influences debate.

Which brings me to another CT news source whose methods I find somewhat distasteful. Back in 2010, I brought attention to Tom Dudchik’s habit of creating headlines that didn’t actually accurately reflect the stories they linked to  but instead portrayed Democrats in a negative way, despite Dudchik’s claim that CTCapitol report was merely a non-partisan news aggregator. Blogger Connecticut Bob also wrote about this. Recently, Dudchik stooped to a new low when he posted an image of two shirtless homosexual men wearing sailor hats, one clearly grasping the other’s buttocks, above a link to a CT Mirror story, which read: “Murphy says Navy should allow chaplains to perform same-sex marriages in state.“

Seriously Mr. Dudchik? You couldn’t find anything less provocative? I just typed Gay Sailors Marriage into Google Images and found this tasteful picture, below right, of two gay sailors fully clothed.

But clearly that wouldn’t achieve Dudchik’s aim, which was to make it seem as if Rep. Murphy had done something salacious and wrong. 

If Dudchik’s site was truly, as claimed in a recent Wall Street Journal write up, “politically agnostic” then he would have been able to ascertain from the CT Mirror piece he link to that Murphy wrote a letter to the Navy urging them to uphold their original policy, which would allow chaplains according to their own beliefs, to perform ceremonies – a policy that was reversed after pressure from House Republicans. Here is a quote from Murphy’s letter:

“Same sex couples, in the armed forces or not, have a legal right to marry in my state. It should go without saying that government policy should not prohibit the religious or civil official of their choice to perform the marriage – that should be left up to the couple and the official…With our state’s proud Naval and Marine Corps tradition, I anticipate that some number of same-sex couples will want to marry in Navy chapels by Naval chaplains. …The decision should be left to chaplains, subject to local and state law and their own spiritual beliefs. “ 

So it’s not like Rep. Murphy was demanding that all Navy chaplains be forced to perform same sex marriages even if it is against their personal beliefs. He was merely pointing out that it is unreasonably of the Navy to prohibit chaplains who are willing to perform such ceremonies to do so when they are legal under the laws of the State of CT, and thankfully, soon, when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is part of our shameful past, gay service members can marry and serve openly.

Rabbis often tell a Chasidic tale about a man (sometimes it’s a woman) who who spreads malicious rumors about the rabbi in the community. At some point he starts to feel remorse and goes to the Rabbi to beg forgiveness, saying he’ll do anything to make amends.  The Rabbi says, “Take a feather pillow, go to the top of the nearby hill, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds.” The man thinks this totally bizarre, but does it.  When he returns to tell the Rabbi that he has fulfilled his task, the Rabbi says, “Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can collect the feathers.”

Newsrooms have been cut. The commitment of newspaper managements seems to be more to advertising than to actual journalism.  Yet as we approach the 2012 elections it behooves those of us who write and present the news to commit ourselves to do better. 

Sarah Darer Littman is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers and an award-winning novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.