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…”
Jonah Goldberg weighed in early here.
I’ll add this: Rod Paige should be fired. [Update: Yup, forgot that he’s already leaving. If he is implicated in the design of this stupid pay-to-pander plan, he must face stiff penalties at most…and strong public rebuke by conservatives at the very least.] Those who came up with this disgusting scheme should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Any other pundits who accepted money from the Bush administration, whether from the Education Department or any other bureaucracy, should come forward now and disclose. And then they should immediately return the money.
Grow some principles, for God’s sake.
Update: Armstrong Williams revealed on The O’Reilly Factor tonight that Tribune Media Services has dropped his syndicated column.
Now, it’s time for someone in the Bush administration to suffer consequences.
I find it very difficult to believe that an experienced journalist or commentator, one who has to make his living off of his independence, could honestly see his way clear to accepting what amounts to a quarter-million-dollar bribe to support a government policy. I don’t care what administration we’re talking about — that plain stinks, and any reasonable person knows it. Williams’ wishy-washy statements about how he can understand “why some people think it’s unethical” and that “it’s fair” for people to think he sold out are forms of denial.
Williams, in short, is a journalistic whore. He’s finished as a commentator. He claims that he will self-syndicate — but who will buy his commentary now?
Like any instance of prostitution, of course, the action involves more than one wrongdoer. If Williams is a whore, the Education Department is his john. Who got the bright idea to spend a quarter of a million dollars of taxpayer money to bribe one journalist?
Good question. Cough up some names, Mr. Paige. We’re waiting.
Update III: Still more bloggers react:
Update IV: New post up top. See “Why no one paid me to sell ‘No Child Left Behind‘”
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