January 07, 2005

Williams admits to being paid White House shill

Armstrong Williams has admitted getting paid to the tune of $240,000 by the Bush Administration to promote the Administration's No Child Left Behind legislation in his syndicated column, on his radio and television shows and to "encourage" other blacks in the media 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.

The contract, detailed in documents obtained by USA Today through a Freedom of Information Act request, also shows that the Education Department, through the Ketchum public relations firm, arranged with Williams to use contacts with America's Black Forum, a group of black broadcast journalists, "to encourage the producers to periodically address" NCLB. He persuaded radio and TV personality Steve Harvey to invite Paige onto his show twice. Harvey's manager, Rushion McDonald, confirmed the appearances.

Williams said he does not recall disclosing the contract to audiences on the air but told colleagues about it when urging them to promote NCLB.

Williams' contract was part of a $1 million deal with Ketchum that produced "video news releases" designed to look like news reports. The Bush administration used similar releases last year to promote its Medicare prescription drug plan, prompting a scolding from the Government Accountability Office, which called them an illegal use of taxpayers' dollars.

Black conservatives like myself work day-in and day-out to promote solid and beneficial causes, which have included NCLB, but with one-fell-swoop, Williams has effectively torpedoed much of that work.

We constantly come under scrutiny by others from both sides of the aisle, from some conservatives who are wary of our presence, and by many liberals who insist that we are "on the take" or "reaching for scraps from 'Massa's' table." We constantly have to prove that we are not some sort of 'spook sitting by the door' when Armstrong comes along and not only accepts taxpayer money, but doesn't see anything truly wrong with it!

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."
"Something he believes in?"

My God! You mean to tell me that if you believe in something, no matter how illegal or wrong it may be, it's OK, because you believe in it!?

If Williams believed in NCLB so much, then he didn't need to be paid to tell folks about it in what was supposed to be a forum of his own opinion.

This calls into question any and all pundits that appear on behalf of the Bush Administration on television, radio and in print across the board. When those on the left call commentators on Fox News into question for being "paid operatives" what sort of defense is there? After all, Armstrong Williams claimed to be his own man, yet was a paid operative of the Bush White House.

Well, I can tell you with complete certainty that the folks that I know and associate with on the right aren't paid by the Administration. On the contrary. If I were, I wouldn't be scraping to get by like everyone else.

Armstrong's entire message becomes suspect as far as I'm concerned, though. And as far as I'm concerned, he becomes "damaged goods" in terms of any sort of conservative black message.

Just damn.

(More coverage from Booker Rising, Eduwonk , Expertise & others)

Posted by mhking at January 7, 2005 10:49 AM

Well...I guess SOMEONE is gettin paid.

I agree. Williams simply made it worse for everyone else. But then again, I've always seen him as a whipping boy for the left anyway. Paige should be blamed for wasting that money in the first place.

Posted by: Expertise at January 7, 2005 02:02 PM

Michael, good for you. This was the LAST thing needed by black conservatives. Make a noise and get other black conservatives to do the same. Maybe it will decrease the harm.

Posted by: GMRoper at January 7, 2005 03:56 PM

I agree with you on this, Michael. I was a little angry when I first read about this, now I'm A LOT angry. I've been accused of being on "Heritage Foundation's payroll," mostly by irrelevant cretins, but still...

It sets us back when someone does this. And what was George Bush thinking???

Posted by: LB at January 7, 2005 07:06 PM

O.K., I admit I am a babe in the woods. I really enjoyed reading many of Armstrong Williams articles on Townhall.com. Now I feel duped. Why did Bush feel a need to buy black support. I really thought a new era of understanding between conservative values and the black community was arriving --- now all my enthusiastic conversation with sceptical average americans that a generational change is occuring seems foolish. I'll recover thanks to good people like you Mr. King, but I will probably be more tentative in the future.

Thanks for keeping on,

Posted by: PDN at January 8, 2005 01:10 AM

I'm a little disturbed by the reaction of black conservatives to this whole Armstrong Williams thing. I mean how long have black folks been in democrats pockets? would this story had suprised anybody if this were Jesse Jackson? Al Sharpton? Maxine Waters? a black preacher? I'm not saying it is right either way but I dont understand why its accepted for us to be bought and pimped by democrats, but when a black conservative does it, the world falls underneath us.

Posted by: phil at January 8, 2005 11:48 AM

I do not believe this is the first time Armstrong has taking money, it is simply the first time he has been caught. The same way Ward Connerly receive millions each year for traveling the country attacking social programs in place to ensure Black men and women are given a fair chance.

Posted by: Faheem at January 8, 2005 01:08 PM

Fair chance, my eye. You call skin color quotas "fair?" To whom? To black children who learn to think of themselves as second-rate charity cases who can't make it without white liberals' handouts? To grow up thinking they're entitled to "social programs" because they're black and, therefore, inferior and unable to make it in America unless the white man gives him scraps from the public trough? As long as I live I will never understand that kind of thinking. No pride, no dignity and no self-respect.

Comparing Williams to Ward Connerly, who I know, is an absurd juggle of apples and oranges. Ward is an independent businessman, not a journalist, who happens to be vehemently against skin color preferences, and so am I. He's invited to speak and he should be paid for his time. Armstrong accepting government funds from the Bush administration via a federal agency to influence journalists reeks of bribery. The two aren't even similar.

Posted by: LB at January 8, 2005 04:27 PM


Bill Moyers just retired from PBS. He was a paid partisan for over thirty years, engaged in rank nepotism and enriched himself greatly using a partially government funded program.

I'm not excusing Williams an inch and I think that he should have disclosed the contract when he signed it or done the work for nothing. I just note that Moyers' retirement was touted by the MSM as if his retirement created a moral "vacuum" (rather than the removal of a stench) while the MSM will crucify Williams. There is not much need to pick up hammer and nails in aid.

Posted by: Rick_Ballard at January 9, 2005 09:43 AM

Who is worse? The person who accepted the bribe or the person who made the bribe in the first place? Why is your wrath coming down on the head of Williams? Doesn't this call the into question the ethicacy of the Bush Administration?

I have greater problems with the offer of the bribe than the acceptance, as it is possible that someone who believed in something would accept money to endorse it (it still is unethical!) But to offer it in the first place? What does that say about the thought process of the Bush Administration regarding people in general?

Posted by: Rachel Ann at January 9, 2005 10:10 AM

Meet the Press touched the issue today, mentioning that there were precedents, though maybe not as spectacular as this one. I was listening on the car radio and I am certain I heard reference to "during the Clinton administration" but I can't find that in the transcript on line.


This is there:

"MR. HUNT:...I'll bet that there will be a great market for Freedom of Information requests in the next couple weeks because I suspect Armstrong Williams is not alone. There have been other people who've been doing this.

"MS. MITCHELL: In fact, the Census Bureau has done this. The Department of Health and Human Services has done this in the past on Medicare and other issues. So they have gone to not just to journalists, but they have put out fake news releases..."

Posted by: John Ballard at January 9, 2005 09:00 PM

I dunno. It looks like the facts of one, possibly several, and hopefully not many, Repug pundits. They are not even enthusiastic enough about these opinions to say them out loud for free.

This is very illuminating to Repug. goals and methods of operation. If my opinion holds true -- I await the revelation of truth with eager, baited breath -- this will turn out to be business as usuall for the Repugs, not just an anomaly.


Posted by: Richar44d at February 5, 2005 11:50 AM


Posted by: bucked at June 17, 2005 08:29 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?