Format Break #2: Why Is The Bush Administration Paying Off Armstrong Williams?

I find this to be bizarre

“Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

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.”

I like Armstrong Williams, in fact I tried to get an interview with him once, but this just makes no sense to me on any level.

Obviously, there’s an ethics problem here if you have the administration secretly paying a pundit to promote their policies. The administration should have known that and Williams should have known that, so it’s baffling to me that they went through with it. Williams, who had his columns dropped by Tribune Media Services over this, said that,

“This has been a great lesson for me. I apologize. … I should be criticized, and I crossed some ethical lines. I’ve learned from this. It will never happen again.”

Yeah, but Williams had to know he was crossing “ethical lines” when it happened, so what was he thinking?

Moreover, if Williams believes in the program as he says (and which is probably the case), why did he need to be paid to promote it? It just makes no sense to me.

This sort of thing makes people question the legitimacy of commentary that they read or hear, because they have to wonder whether some “secret deal” is being struck that is allowing some unknown party to put words in the mouths of radio hosts.

Williams has apologized already. Now, the Bush administration needs to do the same thing, reveal if they paid off any other pundits or radio hosts, and then they need to pledge never to do this sort of thing again.

Hat tip to Michelle Malkin for bringing this story to my attention.

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