"There are others"

By Geraldine Sealey

Published January 10, 2005 8:52PM (EST)

The White House claims its at best unethical and at worst illegal deal with conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, which paid him $241,000 to tell people how much he hearts the No Child Left Behind Act, was an isolated incident. Mr. Williams, apparently, thinks otherwise.

In the Nation, David Corn describes his recent encounter with the embattled and ethically challenged pundit in the Fox News green room: "And then Williams violated a PR rule: he got off-point. 'This happens all the time,' he told me. 'There are others.' Really? I said. Other conservative commentators accept money from the Bush administration? I asked Williams for names. 'I'm not going to defend myself that way,' he said. The issue right now, he explained, was his own mistake. Well, I said, what if I call you up in a few weeks, after this blows over, and then ask you? No, he said. "

Williams may never name names -- and maybe he doesn't even know if other commentators are on the take promoting Bush administration policies. But Armstrong wasn't the only pundit in Washington over the weekend suggesting there could be more paid advertisers for Bush policies lurking on the sets of various talk shows. On "Meet the Press" yesterday, Al Hunt said -- in an alarmingly casual way -- that he suspects more cases of advertorial pundit-izing. "Listen, I'll tell you this," Hunt said. "I'll bet that there will be a great market for Freedom of Information requests in the next couple weeks because I suspect Armstrong Williams is not alone. There have been other people who've been doing this."

Let the FOIA'ing begin!

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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