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Biographers Shouldn’t Sleep with Their Subjects, and Other Deep Moral Truths

The New York Times is asking publishers some hard hitting, probing questions about morals and “best practices” for biographers and their subjects:

Even in the wake of revelations that Ms. Broadwell was having an affair with Mr. Petraeus, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the subject of her biography, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” editors and biographers alike were loath to condemn the book outright because the rules in this area are so hazy.

“I suppose it ultimately depends on the book,” said Stephen Rubin, the president of Henry Holt, “though I would prefer if they didn’t have sex, because you lose a sense of perspective objectivity when you are romantically linked.”

Memo to the New York Times, New York publishers, and other morally clueless individuals scratching their heads over the Petraeus scandal: If you are writing a biography and either you or your subject are married to a third person, and you have sex, you have done something wrong. No mystery, no dilemma, no agonizing introspection needed.

Of course, knowing what is right is the easy part. Doing it can be hard. But if you are genuinely confused about the morality of what presumably happened in this relationship, it’s time to get your moral compass reset.

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