I have a little problem with the reasoning behind the outrage. I don't think it was wrong for Williams to have taken the money. I see it as acceptable that he spoke effusively about "No Child Left Behind." I remember, back when I listened to Rush Limbaugh each day, his promoting a snack beverage called Snapple on his show, going on and on about how tasty and refreshing it was. I can even remember him slurping (Yes, if you are wondering, it was disgusting.) iced tea on the air in order to give people the understanding that he really enjoyed the product.
JOURNALIST FOR SALE
... conservative pundit Armstrong Williams seems to have allowed simple human greed to overpower professional ethics — and simple common sense. USA Today revealed last week that Williams, a syndicated columnist and radio and TV host, accepted at least $240,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to promote the Bush administration's "No Child Left Behind" policy in his various media outlets. Williams happens to support this policy, irrespective of the money.
But his decision to take the cash — compounded by his failure to disclose the fact that he was, essentially, on the government payroll — renders everything he says on that subject and any others irrelevant to serious people.
Williams admits to "bad judgment," a time-honored scoundrel's refuge — but he says he isn't returning the money.
Appropriately Tribune Media Services — which distributed his column — has dropped him, and that probably won't be the end of his professional troubles. (link)
The difference between the Rush Limbaugh promotion of Snapple and Armstrong Williams' boosting of "No Child Left Behind" is in the fact that Rush made it clear that he was being paid (dearly) by the manufacturer of Snapple for his endorsement while Williams kept his payment a secret - until USA Today brought it to the newstand.
Taking him at his word that he truly supports the federal education initiative, that, then, is what he should be criticized for - his failure to disclose his relationship with the government. Not that that isn't enough. He has announced his intention to keep the money he was paid. That is a mistake. Perhaps he understands that his reputation is forever damaged and he knows he'll need the money going forward. Still, he did wrong. He should give it up.
There is a larger question here that needs to be addressed. Who in their right mind would pay anyone a quarter of a million dollars to say good things about a federal education program?!! Is our Department of Education in a position where it has to spend all its budgeted allowance by the end of the year and, therefore, has to throw exorbitant sums at trivial matters like this? If that's the case, I'm hereby putting the word out: I'm a big believer in daycare.
Make checks payable to: Jerry Fuhrman, Bland, VA.