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All the News That Your Tax Dollars Can Buy

January 28th, 2005

When Armstrong Williams was caught taking payola from the Bush administration in exchange for pushing their agenda as if he were an objective observer, he not only denied that he had done anything wrong–he also hinted that he was not alone. He was not lying, at least not about that.

As a journalist, you are supposed to subscribe to at the very least some minimal standards. Being objective and avoiding conflicts of interest are among the most important, as you are in a position of trust and responsibility; your readers take you as you represent yourself, and if there is a conflict, you are morally obliged to reveal that. Which is why on newscasts where the network is owned by a corporation, and the news show reports on something related to that corporation, they mention that relationship.

The government of the people is expected to steward taxpayer dollars in the way that best suits the populace, and, as much as possible for any government, be straightforward with the people. The Bush administration long ago tore these expectations to shreds; aside from the copious lying, such as about the known budget of Medicare, the administration also spent public money on fake news spots which were barely veiled campaign commercials for Bush. Using tax dollars to fund them was illegal. This, along with their blatant cowing of the news media, demonstrated that they cared little about ethics and were willing to pervert the process of providing accurate information to the public in order to sell their agenda–proving their moral bankruptcy as well as the unpopularity of their real plans by the fact that they could be passed only if the public were lied to about them.

Well, all of this didn’t end with Armstrong Williams. Soon after he stated that he was not the only one taking taxpayer money–specifically, he said, “This happens all the time, there are others”–to push the partisan Bush agenda, out came the news that Maggie Gallagher, a columnist for UPS syndicated nationwide, had accepted $21,500–and probably another $20,000 as well–from the Bush administration (specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services) to push their marriage act, just as Williams had been paid to push “No Child Left Behind.” Like Williams, Gallagher claims she did nothing wrong, but even a first-year journalism student would finding it glaringly obvious that if you are being paid by the government to publicize their agenda, then whenever you speak on that issue, you damn well better mention that relationship. Gallagher is either clueless to the basic ethics of her field, or is being unabashedly and knowingly unethical, and trying to cover up for it.

And now a third syndicated columnist, Michael McManus, whose ironically titled column “Ethics & Religion” is published in 50 newspapers, also is revealed as being on the take, like Gallagher from HHS to promote the Bush marriage act, and like Williams and Gallagher, did not disclose the fact as any competent journalist would know they are obliged to do. Paid $10,000 for his shilling, McManus must be slapping his forehead for being paid off so cheaply when Armstrong got nearly a quarter of a million dollars for his payoff.

Meanwhile, Bush is trying to make it look like this was all a rogue act and he had nothing to do with it and it was just some bureaucrat or something, and that he greatly disapproves of it all. But as I have pointed out before, if this has happened multiple times through several different government agencies, it is not an isolated act–it is, by definition, administration policy, and Bush is directly responsible.

Not that “responsible” means anything to Bush, Williams, Gallagher or McManus–or, very likely, to an undetermined number of other “journalists” who have been paid of but who are still hiding from public view.

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  1. Tim Kane
    January 29th, 2005 at 04:28 | #1

    The Slipshod presidency. Poorly conceived policies, Poorly executed. Therefore the need to buy favorable commentary.

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