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Now It's Pure Propaganda
The Armstrong Williams case reveals the Bush administration engages in propaganda bought and paid for.

In the article below the Center for American Progress summarizes how easily the news of the day can actually be propaganda bought and paid for by the Bush administration. In a democracy the discussion and debate of issues by the people is the way government is kept in check. But in this case the government is using tax money to tell people what they should believe under the guise that it is honest reporting. Here is the story:

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The White House paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams more than $240,000 of taxpayers' money to "promote President Bush's No Child Left Behind law" on his syndicated television program "and to other African-Americans in the news media." His public commentary on the law likely violated Section 317 of the Communications Act, which stipulates broadcasters must disclose when they are paid to include program matter in a broadcast. Over the weekend, Chicago-based Tribune Media Services dropped Williams's column, "saying he violated his contract," and CNN spokesman Matthew Furman said Williams failed to disclose his government contract before he praised the law during a segment in October. The Williams Contract is just the latest of the administration's repeated efforts to pass off government propaganda as news. Join Media Matters' David Brock in asking news organizations to refrain from using Williams as an "independent" commentator.

The Williams contract was filtered through Ketchum, a public relations firm that the Department of Education has paid $1 million in taxpayer money to help promote its policies. As part of a $700,000 contract uncovered by People for the American Way in October, Ketchum helped the administration produce a "video news release geared for television stations." It also developed a ranking system for newspaper coverage of NCLB. Points were awarded for stories saying "President Bush and the Republican Party are strong on education," while "Stories lost five points for negative messages, including claims that the law is not adequately funded or is too tough on states."

Williams has called himself a "longtime supporter of No Child Left Behind," but he wrote nothing about the bill in his weekly syndicated column until his contract kicked in late in 2003. He proceeded to write five columns singing the praises of Bush's education policies in the first six months of 2004. In addition, he shilled for NCLB on CNN (10/19/04) and CNBC's the Capital Report (8/9/04). According to Bloomberg's Al Hunt, Williams did some heavy lifting for the bill behind the scenes as well: "Armstrong did deliver his promise," Hunt said, "because I occasionally worked out at a gym and Armstrong's there, and he told me several times, you know, 'Why don't you write about No Child Left Behind.'"

NCLB is not the only domestic policy the Bush administration has promoted covertly to the public. Last January, local news stations across the country aired a story by "reporter" Mike Morris, "describing plans for a new White House ad campaign on the dangers of drug abuse." Viewers were not informed that Morris was not a journalist, nor that his "report" was produced by the government. On Friday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, "scolded the Bush administration for distributing phony prepackaged news reports," which included a "'suggested live intro' for anchors to read, interviews with Washington officials and a closing that mimics a typical broadcast news sign off."

The GAO's rebuke is the second of its kind. The Office chided the White House last year for distributing fake news segments promoting its Medicare legislation. One segment featured paid actress Karen Ryan posing as a "reporter." Another video, intended for Hispanic viewers, showed a government official being interviewed in Spanish by an actor posing as a reporter named "Alberto Garcia." The GAO said the segments "violated federal law" and were a form of "covert propaganda" because "the government was not identified as the source of the materials, broadcast by at least 40 television stations in 33 markets."

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Date Added: 1/10/2005 Date Revised: 1/10/2005 10:11:28 AM

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