If Boeing was trying to send a clear signal about ethics when it ousted CEO Harry Stonecipher, it failed. At least that's what my e-mail...

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If Boeing was trying to send a clear signal about ethics when it ousted CEO Harry Stonecipher, it failed.

At least that’s what my e-mail inbox tells me.
After I wrote Wednesday that it made little sense for Boeing to force out Stonecipher for having a consensual affair with a fellow executive, company employees barraged me with commentary that was all over the map.

Though Boeing insists he wasn’t axed for adultery, a lot of you think the company was out to pin the scarlet letter on Harry before shipping him off to face his wife of 50 years.

“It is all very clear and very simple,” wrote Tom Simmerman, a Boeing worker in Fullerton, Calif. “How can a CEO ask his employees to show loyalty to the cause when he is unable to demonstrate loyalty to his own wife and family?”

Dozens of readers agreed — with some detouring to question my marriage and accuse me of “moral relativism.”

“Obviously, you are a person with little morality,” wrote Jo Murray, cheering Boeing for “cleaning house.” “Your attitude about this subject sickens me. I will never read another article you write again.”

OK, Mom, maybe I was a bit flippant about adultery. But is it so outrageous to suggest that the rules of Harry Stonecipher’s marriage are between Mr. and Mrs. Stonecipher, and no concern of The Boeing Co.?

Apparently they’ve been separated for some time anyway — not that that ought to be any of our business.

Several Boeing insiders made a point I hadn’t considered — that the company has contracts with branches of the military in which adultery is subject to court-martial.

“I would be willing to bet that Boeing’s anxiety over flagging defense contracts is what really caused this,” said one. “Lockheed Martin’s lobbyists were probably loving this.”

Many cited the emerging theory that it wasn’t having sex that did him in, but writing about it in company e-mail.

“It is not the affair, it is that he is too stupid to be the boss,” wrote John Calderbank, who works in Boeing procurement.

If that’s the case, it would help confused workers if the company would simply say so.

“I totally agree with your article. Just what did Stonecipher really do?” wrote an employee who asked not to be named. “I work at Boeing and we’ve been instructed by management that we can’t even talk about this at work.”

An excellent management strategy: Let it fester!

Finally, I am stunned at how many are clamoring for the blood of the female executive. (The Seattle Times has not named her so far — on the premise she may have done nothing wrong and deserves privacy — but we seem to be the only media outlet on the planet with such quaint notions.)

Boeing is investigating her. So far there’s no allegation she did much but sleep with the boss (she’s single, by the way).

I know, it wasn’t the brightest career move for a 25-year company employee.

What she should do now is quit. Not because she’s guilty, but to get away from this company’s management before it self-destructs any further.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com.