Monday, January 10, 2005

Armstrong Williams Faces The Music

Armstrong Williams
As we (and others) profiled here on Saturday, conservative "commentator" Armstrong Williams secretly accepted $240,000 in order to "pitch" the Administration's No Child Left Behind Act to the African American community.

Most know by now that the cat was let out of the bag at the end of last week.

Today, Armstrong Williams has published his
"apology" for misleading the public. The whole piece can be thought of as an exercise in spin control. In his opening statement, Williams writes:

"In 2003, I agreed to run a paid ad on my syndicated television show, promoting the Department of Education’s No Child Left Behind Act. I subsequently used my column space to support that legislation. This represents an obvious conflict of interests. People have used this conflict of interests to portray my column as being paid for by the Bush Administration. Nothing could be further from the truth."

We like the first part of the above as it is a statement of facts, but in our view Williams runs into problems when he attempts to say that the column was not "Paid for by the Bush Administration." That is simply nonsense. Of course the column was bought and paid for by the administration. Any time that a pundit accepts cash payments in exchange for supporting a given position, the pundit's utterances cease being commentary and start being commercial advertisements.

Williams then compounds his difficulty by writing:

"At the same time, I understand that I exercised bad judgment in running paid advertising for an issue that I frequently write about in my column. People need to know that my column is uncorrupted by any outside influences. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my bad judgment, and to better explain the circumstances."

His statement about his column being uncorrupted by outside influences is simply asinine. A simple question puts that statement into perspective. Would the administration have paid that money if Armstrong Williams had said that the No Child Left Behind Act was unjust and bad for children? We think not.

Williams finally wraps things up by writing:

"I accept full responsibility for my lack of good judgment. I am paying the price. Tribune Media has cancelled my column. And I have learned a valuable lesson. I just want to assure you that this will never happen again, and to ask for your forgiveness."

Williams has finally written something that we here at the 'Wonks can agree with. He is paying the price of a horribly poor error in judgment.

Armstrong Williams has apologized. That's all that any person can do. The issues that must now be addressed are how to repair the long-term damage that has most certainly been caused by this whole episode and continue the process of moving forward with positive educational reform.

Update: Michelle Malkin has some well-reasoned thoughts on Armstrong's "apology."

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