Friday :: Jan 7, 2005

Armstrong Williams: Paid Tool Of The White House

by Steve

Conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, who formerly worked for that man of high character Clarence Thomas, has received $240,000 in taxpayer money from the Administration to spout propaganda in support of the Leave No Child Behind law on his TV show and in his columns.

The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.

Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in."

No Armstrong, if you did it because you believe in it, you would have done it without shaking down the taxpayers for it. You did it because you are a conservative who values money above all else. Perhaps you can spout for us how many African Americans have been helped by the passage of NCLB, and why we should ignore the fraud behind this law that took place in W's Texas schools.

The contract may be illegal "because Congress has prohibited propaganda," or any sort of lobbying for programs funded by the government, said Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "And it's propaganda."

Another example of great moral values by a conservative.

Given this propaganda exercise, how many conservative pundits do you think are on the White House payroll selling us the benefits of Social Security privatization these last four years?

Update: Howard Kurtz reports in a Page One in Saturday's Post that Williams is paying a price for his conflict of interest and is taking some shots as well. And the Administration is taking some shots from the Post over its repeated use of taxpayer resources for propaganda.

Williams's newspaper syndicate, Tribune Media Services, yesterday canceled his column. And one television network dropped his program pending an investigation. “Accepting compensation in any form from an entity that serves as a subject of his weekly newspaper columns creates, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest," prompting readers to ask whether his opinions "have been purchased by a third party," a company statement said.

In October, Williams praised the law on CNN. He "didn't disclose to us that he was a paid spokesman, and we believe he should have," said CNN spokesman Matthew Furman. "We will obviously take that into serious consideration before booking Armstrong in the future."

Alex Jones, director of Harvard's Shorenstein media center, said he is "disgusted" by what he called "the worst kind of fakery and flackery" on Williams's part. "It's propaganda masquerading as news, paid by government, truly a recipe from hell," he said. "It would make any thinking person hearing any pundit speak want to say, 'Okay, how much did they pay you to say that?' “Jones said the contract also shows that "the Bush administration neither understands nor respects the idea of an independent media."

And yet the Bush Education Department sees nothing wrong with the buying of journalists to peddle propaganda with taxpayer dollars.

The Education Department defended the contract, which Paige knew about in advance, as a minority outreach effort through Williams's syndicated program, "The Right Side."

"Our contract was for advertising," said department spokesman John Gibbons. "Our intent was to reach out to minority audiences. Armstrong went out and talked about it -- we didn't have anything to do with that."

But the contract also required Williams to "utilize his long term working relationship" with black producers to "encourage" them to "periodically address the No Child Left Behind Act."

Amazing. Keep in mind the issue here isn’t Williams’ punditocracy. He and other pundits who have their own shows are free to support and espouse whatever views they want. But for the government to think it is acceptable to grease these folks with taxpayer dollars to use their public airwave platforms to masquerade as journalists supporting the Administration is beyond the pale.

Steve :: 12:35 PM :: Comments (29) :: Digg It!