01/11/05 — Bribery: Democrats’ accusations hit the nail on the head

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Bribery: Democrats’ accusations hit the nail on the head

Democrats have accused Republican commentator Armstrong Williams of bribery for taking money from the U.S. Department of Education. They are right on target.

It is not surprising that there are bureaucrats in government who would be willing to pay someone to promote their pet programs — especially with the taxpayers’ money and not their own. But it is shocking to find a heretofore respected journalist who would be so ethically destitute that he would accept the payments.

To its credit, the company that distributed Williams’ column to newspapers, Tribune Media Services, canceled its arrangement with him.

Williams himself has acknowledged that he had used “bad judgment,” but he has refused to return any of the $241,000 that he took from the government.

He says he “earned it.”

That only heightens his offense. If he really earned the money, he did so by saying on television shows, or writing in his column, something that he would not have said or written if not for the payments.

Yet, he claims he personally favored President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, the program that he was bribed to hype.

In any case, Williams never divulged to his viewers and readers that he was being paid by the Education Department, and that his commentary might thereby be influenced. He was deceptive.

Taking money from sources is one of the worst of breaches of journalistic ethics. At least, it used to be. After this, we can only wonder how deep this pile of corruption really is.

Published in Editorials on January 11, 2005 10:57 AM