Conservative African American radio talk show host Armstrong Williams has admitted accepting $240,000 from the Bush Administration to promote the adminstration's No Child Left Behind education policy to his audience and other black journalists.
In a USA Today story that Armstrong posted Friday on his own Web site, the paper reported that a copy of the contract required Williams to "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," as well as interview Education Secretary Rod Page, who is also Afircan American.
Williams said Friday that he understood that it looked like he was being bought by the administration, but he said that was not the case and that he was promoting something he believed in. He did not disclose the deal to his audience, however.
George Miller (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House education committee, was not appeased.
He called for an investigation into whether the deal was illegal as well as unethical.
He also pointed out that it was just the latest in a string of administration attempts to influence the media.
He pointed out that in May, the GAO found that the Department of Health and Human Services had illegally used video news releases to promote its Medicare policy. In addition, the GAO Thursday found that the Office of Drug Control Policy had used similar VNRs to promote an anti-drug use message.
ONDCP also crew criticism several years ago when it paid programmers to insert anti-drug messages into the plots of entertainment shows. That relationship was not disclosed either.
Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), called on the President late friday to "stop the alarming use of illegal covert propaganda to promote government policy."