Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Payola Pundit Returns

Playing Journalist on TV
Armstrong Williams thinks that the time has come to begin anew, to move past the controversy surrounding his accepting money to shill for the White House's No Child Left Behind program and return to the lucrative Washington practice of slinging influence for fun and profit.

In a speech before a hometown crowd in South Carolina, Williams called the investigation into the $240,000 deal a "witch hunt" and vowed to continue the fight to restore his standing in the DC community that has served him so well. The audience gave their native son a standing ovation.

Williams maintained he was acting as "an entrepreneur" who had no formal training in journalism. That's funny, he seemed more than willing to play a journalist on television. He should have let on that he was just giving us the business.

He added that the FCC has no jurisdiction over him because he isn't a licensed broadcaster, a statement that seems blind to the FCC’s own rules on payola, which state “If record companies, or their agents, are paying persons other than the licensee to have records aired, and not disclosing that fact to the licensee, the person making such payments, and the recipient, are subject to fine, imprisonment or both.” [my emphasis]

Williams intends not to pay back any of the money he'd received unless forced. So let it be done.

Williams sad bid to restore his reputation in and beyond the Beltway seems to prove Edward Wasserstein’s point, made in a Monday Miami Herald column, that “the commentary arena is little better than an ethical brothel” where columnists have come to regard themselves immune to the consequences of their influence pedaling.

Williams was paid money to sell Bush’s controversial education policies to Black America. He did so in an egregiously dishonest fashion that violates any acceptable standard of journalism -- and, possibly, of federal law.

It’s not a time for barn raisings but humility, honesty and cooperation with the investigators who are sure to come knocking at Williams’ Northeast Capitol Hill door. If Williams knows of other media pundits on the dole -- as he claimed in a recent aside to Nation columnist David Corn -- let’s hear about them [Update]. The White House and members of the PR community who brokered these deals could open their books to the public. And if they’re not willing to help, our friends in the media reform community can persuade all actors that full disclosure is good for us all.

This is not about scoring partisan points. It’s about restoring honest politics to a system that has become tainted by easy money and cynicism. This is not a “witch hunt” as Williams and others have claimed, but an honest effort to reassert the standard that American journalism cannot be bought and sold. ///

[Jan 27 upadte: President Bush on Wednesday said the $241,000 deal between the Department of Education and Armstrong Williams was a mistake, one the president said he had made clear that other federal agencies should not repeat. President Bush also said the White House had not been aware of the payoff to Mr. Williams. " All our cabinet secretaries must realize that we will not be paying, you know, commentators to advance our agenda," President Bush said. "Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."]

[Jan 28 Update: One day after President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries to stop hiring commentators to help promote administration initiatives, and one day after the second high-profile conservative pundit was found to be on the federal payroll, a third embarrassing hire has emerged. Salon has confirmed that Michael McManus, a marriage advocate whose syndicated column, "Ethics & Religion," appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to foster a Bush-approved marriage initiative.]


Anonymous said...

How much money do these people make that one can forget a $20,000 payment?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I often forget several tens of thousands of dollars and major government reports I am hired to work on...NOT! There is so much BS flying out of Washington these days, the city should be renamed "CRAPINGTON."

Anonymous said...

I am sure such under the table payments happen a lot in Washington. Why is Armstrong Williams suddenly being picked on? Could it be because he is one of the very few Black conservatives out there, so he has to be brought down?

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or does this article reek of conflict of interest?

Anonymous said...

If Mr Williams returned the tax money to the people-or if he donated the gross proceeds to a responsible, recognized charity, he might have a leg to stand on.

As for him being black, a non-issue here-he just happens to be the first outted in the Republican payola hit parade. I wouldn't think any better of him if he were purple, orange green or white.

Anonymous said...

It would seem that honesty and integrity are the hallmarks of both Williams and Gallagher. Of course, conflict of interest never seems to occur to conservatives when it is applied to them

Anonymous said...

re Gallagher's marriage-merchandising: it's kind of depressing -- for women anyway -- that the payola for selling out women to the white right, in 2002, was only 10% of what Williams got for selling out children to the white right in 2005.
The Bush bounty system seems to be kind of adjustable: bin Laden's has just doubled to $50 million, for example.
@ / http://DeepEndNews.com

Ruthie Rader said...

From: ME

Re: "Crappington"

Comment: :P Thbzzzz!!!

Anonymous said...

We have now heard of two 'journalists' who were bought and paid for by the Bush administration.

It raises two questions:

1. Are there any more of these?
2. How many did this - being bought by the Clinton administration?

Anonymous said...

talk about payola, has anyone looked into the selling of the term "homeland security" via tv movies and serials. within months of the creation of the office of homeland security i have seen several movies and serials touting "homeland security" as though it were a national institution older than social security and the u.s. constitution ... this angered me because i knew at that moment that the current administration had bought its way into my living room and was selling me a bill of goods i did not order, its not enough that they are killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people with their complicity in the twin towers and iraq, now they are in my living room selling another pile of lies from the father of lies himself; his current name is bush but he has a much older name ... can you guess his name?