No Pundit Left Behind
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.
Here's a collection of Armstrong Williams' excuses so far today: 1) The Education Department paid for ADVERTISING, not shilling (even though he never informed his audience that what they were listening to was advertising; 2) "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in," so it's OK being paid to shill propaganda because I believed it at the time, and 3) I'm a pundit, and therefore not actually a journalist, and therefore not bound by the standards of journalistic integrity.
Well, I agree that pundits aren't journalists. Therefore, what citizens have to learn from this is, we should assume that all pundits who spout their opinions on television, radio or the Internet are being paid by the government or some power sympathetic to their claim. Any liberal on Sean Hannity's show should answer every question by asking him "How much were you paid by the Bush Administration to make that last comment?" Same with Limbaugh. O'Reilly. Savage. All of them.
This is actually a huge opening into the realities of how the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy works. Scaife and other billionaires pay for huge structures to funnel their ideas into the media. In some cases, it appears, they actually eliminate the middle man and pay the media. So we should just assume that they're paying everyone.
Before you think that this tactic is dishonest, read this sentence:
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...
Ketchum is the same company that helped the Department of Health and Human Services put out fake video news releases touting Medicare that looked like the real thing.
This is what the right does. They pull the wool over the eyes of the public by paying for media coverage, making it look like everyday journalism. Citizens should flat-out see this for what it is, and they should not (given the evidence) trust any conservative opinion on television. Based on the preponderance of evidence, we should assume Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Coulter and everyone else is being bought and paid for. And that should characterize every interaction with them on TV or radio by every liberal from now until the end of time.
Republicans never worry about whether or not their charges are baseless. They just charge. We could learn from that, and thank Armstrong Williams with the ammo to put all conservative pundits on the defensive.