Monday, January 10, 2005


Conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, as most of you probably are aware, was paid $250,000 by the Department Of Education to promote the No Child Left Behind Act on his daily radio show.

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.

This, obviously, is a gross violation of journalistic ethics and, to his credit, Williams has admitted that.

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."

On the other hand, the Bush Administration, staying true to form, is passing the buck. Peyton Manning isn't the only one setting records.

Q: USA Today says the Education Department paid a TV commentator, Armstrong Williams, about a quarter million dollars to promote No Child Left. And in a related matter, the GAO found yesterday the drug policy office broke federal law by using taxpayer money for covert, "propaganda," with made for TV story packages. Are these practices that you condone?

MR. McCLELLAN: On the first one, that was a decision by the Department of Education, and a contracting matter. So you ought to direct those questions to the Department of Education. I know the headline said that the White House -- basically implied that it was the White House, and it wasn't. If you read the story -- if you read the story, it pointed that out.

Q: It's your administration, Scott. It's the President's administration.

MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of the Office of the Drug Policy, I think that they addressed that issue directly, and that that issue has already been resolved, at this point.

Q: You're pushing it off to the agencies. Obviously, the drug control policy office is an arm of the White House. More broadly, do you approve -- does the White House approve this practice?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that they talked about how they had resolved that issue. I know the HHS was referenced in that story, too, and they had stopped doing it, as well. And we think those were appropriate steps to take.

Q: To stop both practices?

MR. McCLELLAN: They both indicated that they had. We think it was an appropriate step to take by those offices.

Cut that meat! Cut that meat!