According to an article by Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post (“U.S. paid journalist to tout law“), the Education Department secretly paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams $241,000 to help promote President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law.
In taking the money, funneled through a public-relations firm, Williams produced and aired a commercial on his syndicated television and radio shows featuring Education Secretary Rod Paige, touted Bush’s education policy and urged other programs to interview Paige. He didn’t disclose the contract when talking about the law during cable-television appearances or writing about it in his newspaper column.
Democrats immediately accused the administration of trying to bribe journalists. Well duh-uh! It’s standard practice for the US to bribe journalists around the world… what makes anybody think they’re not doing it at home?
This is blatant propaganda that would make Goebbels proud — and at taxpayer expense, no less. When critics like me reluctantly use the word “fascism” to describe the tactics of the Republican leadership and their corporate patrons, this is exactly the kind of undemocratic crap we’re talking about.
Alex Jones, director of Harvard’s Shorenstein media center, said he is “disgusted” by what he called “the worst kind of fakery and flackery” on Williams’ part. “It’s propaganda masquerading as news, paid by government, truly a recipe from hell,” he said. “It would make any thinking person hearing any pundit speak want to say, ‘OK, how much did they pay you to say that?’ ” The contract also shows that “the Bush administration neither understands nor respects the idea of an independent media,” Jones said.
Hmm… makes you wonder how much Dori Monson got paid for his right-wing conversion, huh?