This rumor has been kicking around and now USA Today’s Toppo outs it with confirmation on the front page. Must-read.
Punchline: The Department of Education paid commentator/columnist/talk show host Armstrong Williams $240K to promote No Child Left Behind in his various media outlets.
What can you say about this? It’s sleazy on several levels. Margaret Spellings can’t get confirmed fast enough and clean house. Regardless of party, these guys are just an embarrassment if you care at all about education. They keep score on some journos and pay others? In any event, this story sure won’t help Toppo’s already apparently low-score for favorability to the Department!
“I respect Mr. Williams’ statement that this is something he believes in,” said Bob Steele, a media ethics expert at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies. “But I would suggest that his commitment to that belief is best exercised through his excellent professional work rather than through contractual obligations with outsiders who are, quite clearly, trying to influence content.”
Update: ABC’s Note weighs-in calling it “utterly astonishing”, “We’d say more, but we’re having a hard time picking our jaws up off of the floor. ” Yeah.