And they say the media isn't bought and paid for...
Monday 10 January 2005 @ 09:50
An interesting tidbit from David Corn at The Nation:
It was a rare moment of talk-show unanimity. On the set of the Fox News Washington bureau, host Tony Snow, fellow guest Linda Chavez (a conservative pundit), and I were slamming Armstrong Williams, a rightwing columnist and talk show host. USA Today had reported--as you probably know--that Williams had been paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars by the Bush administration to promote its No Child Left Behind education bill. And Williams, who supported the legislation in his column and as a cable news talking head, had not bothered to inform his audiences or the folks who book him at CNN, Fox, and MSNBC that he was a shill on the Bush payroll.
After our segment finished, Chavez and I headed to the green room, and there he was: Armstrong Williams. He was waiting to go on air to defend himself. I've known him a long time; we've often sparred, in friendly fashion, on these shouting-head shows. I shook my head and said, "Armstrong, Armstrong, Armstrong...." He was quick with his main talking point: "It was bad judgment, Dave. Bad judgment." His phone rang. He answered it, said hello, and then told the person on the other end, "It was bad judgment. You know, just bad judgment." I was reminded that in addition to being a pundit, Williams, a leading African-American conservative and Clarence Thomas protege, is a PR specialist with his own firm. Not too long ago, Michael Jackson called him for advice. Now he had himself for a client, and, heeding conventional crisis-management strategy, he was practicing strict message discipline: bad judgment, bad judgment, bad judgment.
And then Williams violated a PR rule: he got off-point. "This happens all the time," he told me. "There are others." Really? I said. Other conservative commentators accept money from the Bush administration? I asked Williams for names. "I'm not going to defend myself that way," he said. The issue right now, he explained, was his own mistake. Well, I said, what if I call you up in a few weeks, after this blows over, and then ask you? No, he said.
Does Williams really know something about other rightwing pundits? Or was he only trying to minimize his own screw-up with a momentary embrace of a trumped-up everybody-does-it defense? I could not tell. But if the IG at the Department of Education or any other official questions Williams, I suggest he or she ask what Williams meant by this comment. And if Williams is really sorry for this act of "bad judgment" and for besmirching the profession of rightwing punditry, shouldn't he do what he can to guarantee that those who watch pundits on the cable news networks and read political columnists receive conservative views that are independent and untainted by payoffs from the Bush administration or other political outfits?