Bush White House won't report on fake news

While Congress and the FCC crack down on government-funded "news releases," the administration keeps stonewalling on the issue.

Published April 15, 2005 10:40PM (EDT)

The Senate's unanimous decision Thursday to ban federal funding for "video news releases" broadcast the image of a federal government deeply concerned about the dangers of manipulating the public with propaganda. The FCC also announced a crackdown this week, instating new rules for disclosure.

But the Bush White House hasn't been so forthcoming on the issue. On Wednesday, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., announced that the White House has not been cooperating with a probe he requested into the Armstrong Williams payola case. In January, reporters revealed that the conservative commentator had been awarded $240,000 worth of Department of Education funding to promote the administration's No Child Left Behind initiative. At Miller's behest, the Department of Education's inspector general, Jack Higgins, launched an internal investigation. According to a press release from Miller's office, Higgins told Miller that the White House "had refused to allow them to interview White House officials who may have knowledge of the Williams contract" -- and that Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is considering requiring Higgins to delete certain information he had originally included in his draft report.

Nor has the administration cooperated with requests made by twenty-one Democratic lawmakers back in January for copies of all documents pertaining to "secret publicity campaigns to promote administration priorities."

President Bush must have a unique definition of due diligence. In January, he himself declared: "All of us, the Cabinet, needs to take a good look and make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again." But it's pretty hard for investigators to take a good look when the doors keep slamming shut in front of them.

By Julia Scott

San Francisco-based freelance journalist Julia Scott writes about water and energy issues for various publications. She also covers the environment for Bay Area News Group, a chain of newspapers in Northern California.

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