Friday, January 07, 2005

Something's amiss here

The Bush administration gave radio host Armstrong Williams almost a quarter of a million dollars of taxpayers' money to promote the No Child Left Behind Act on his show, USA Today reported today. Williams said he doesn't remember telling his listeners that he was paid to tout the act, an omission that would be a gross violation of journalistic ethics.

What concerns me more, though, is that a government agency apparently paid a private broadcaster to try to influence the political content of his show. That sounds a lot like government-
funded covert propaganda, which would make the contract illegal. If Williams supports NCLB, that's fine, but tax money shouldn't pay radio hosts for espousing government-approved views.

This isn't the first time the Bush administration has used questionable tactics to promote its policies in the media. The General Accounting Office condemned officials at the Department of Health and Human Services last year for using federal funds to pay for video packages in which a "reporter" touted the positives of the administration's Medicare plan but didn't mention that HHS paid for the segment. More than 40 television stations ran the video, including Tuscaloosa's WVUA. The GAO admonished the administration again this week after the Office of National Drug Control Policy produced a similar package on drug abuse that also failed to disclose that the government paid for it.

Our free press is in trouble if the government is using our tax money to put propaganda on the air without our knowledge.


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