It was revealed last Friday that the Bush administration paid commentator Armstrong Williams almost a quarter of a million dollars to plug No Child Left Behind on his nationally syndicated TV show. According to USA Today, Armstrong had to "regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts" - and in return, he received $240,000 of your money. Sweet deal! When Armstrong got caught out last week, he made a statement saying that, despite knowing the arrangement was highly unethical, "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in." Clearly he didn't believe in it enough to do it for free.David Corn of The Nation writes about his encounter with Williams this weekend:
And then Williams violated a PR rule: he got off-point. "This happens all the time," he told me. "There are others." Really? I said. Other conservative commentators accept money from the Bush administration? I asked Williams for names. "I'm not going to defend myself that way," he said. ... Does Williams really know something about other rightwing pundits? Or was he only trying to minimize his own screw-up with a momentary embrace of a trumped-up everybody-does-it defense? I could not tell. ...The question on everyone's mind is: Who else is on the take? If Bush Co. was willing to pay $240,000 of taxpayer money to a relative lightweight like Williams, they are likely paying bigger bucks to bigger names.
I'm sure Williams hopes this will all disappear quickly -- he has said he's sorry (although he's keeping the cash) and the White House says this is an isolated incident.
Bonus: Rumsfeld, December 24, 2004:
"What hurts most is in the region where the neighboring countries whose help we need are constantly being barraged with truly vicious inaccuracies about what's taking place in this country. And it's conscious, it's consistent, it's persistent and it makes everything we try to do in neighboring countries where we're looking for support, vastly more difficult. And we, as a country, don't do that. We don't go out and hire journalists and propagandize and lie and put people on payroll so that they'll say what you want. We just don't do that and they do and that's happening. And Al Jazeera is right there at the top."There you have it from the Secretary of Defense: Only EvilDoers™ put journalists on their payrolls.