A few weeks ago, the news story broke that Armstrong Williams, a conservative African-American print, radio and television pundit, was paid $240,000 to help promote Bush’s No Child Left Behind program to minority audiences, but was instructed to do so without disclosing he had been paid to by the government. So he appeared on numerous programs to promote the initiative, leaving people with the impression that he was expressing an impartial, objective viewpoint about it. That is, of course, a crime, not to mention a major violation of journalism ethics.
When the news broke, the White House denied there were any other reporters being paid to promote the Bush agenda, although Williams claimed he was one of many, and that the practice was common, and therefore somehow okay, despite the fact that there are laws about this sort of thing.
Then a few days ago, a second scandal erupted when it came to light that syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher had been paid $21,000 by the Department of Health and Human Services to write on the president’s marriage initiative, while failing to disclose to her readers that the payment occurred.
Yesterday, President Bush ordered his cabinet secretaries to stop breaking the law and paying members of the press to promote his policies, after a numerous Freedom of Information Act inquiries had been submitted, making it apparent that people were going to pursue the story.
Now a third scandal has broken — Salon Magazine has uncovered that Michael McManus, another syndicated columnist who’s “Ethics and Religion” column appears in 50 newspapers, was also paid to promote Bush’s marriage initiative, again, without disclosing that he had been hired by the government.
Sounds a bit like this guy shouldn’t be writing much about Ethics or religion, frankly.