Buying of News by Bush's Aides Ruled Illegal

"WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 - Federal auditors said on Friday that the Bush administration violated the law by buying favorable news coverage of President Bush's education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party.

In a blistering report, the investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, said the administration had disseminated "covert propaganda" in the United States, in violation of a statutory ban.

The contract with Mr. Williams and the general contours of the public relations campaign had been known for months. The report Friday provided the first definitive ruling on the legality of the activities.

Lawyers from the accountability office, an independent nonpartisan arm of Congress, found that the administration systematically analyzed news articles to see if they carried the message, "The Bush administration/the G.O.P. is committed to education."

The auditors declared: "We see no use for such information except for partisan political purposes. Engaging in a purely political activity such as this is not a proper use of appropriated funds."

The report also sharply criticized the Education Department for telling Ketchum Inc., a public relations company, to pay Mr. Williams for newspaper columns and television appearances praising Mr. Bush's education initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act."

Oh pulease!

The money given to Armstrong Williams was wrong, and it was dealt with a few months back. However, hiring a public relations firm to "check the news" isn't illegal, or even close to being unethical, right Mr. Stephanopoulos?

This isn't news.

All administrations (The Clinton Administration was king at this), have "manipulated the media" from one time or another. In fact, Hillary has started early.

Yet media watch groupAIMcovered this back in April.

"Starting in 2004, and continuing until today, media have taken the Bush administration to the woodshed over government VNRs that wind up being broadcast in whole or in part. The news audience is left with the idea this is something new. Media did not see fit to report that the Clinton administration was spending taxpayer money for electronically tracking some of their VNRs in order to find out how many news stations broadcast them in some form. For example, government reports indicate that in February and May of 1999, a VNR about listeriosis and safe food practices for at-risk groups was produced and distributed via the USDA Television Service. After tracking the VNR, the Clinton administration learned that 11 television markets had downlinked the VNR, reaching an estimated 617,000 viewers.

In the final ironic twist, consider how the media produced story after story on Jeff Gannon's "softball questions" which were published on a an alleged "sham" news organization site that had ties to a Republican-oriented organization. But no media told us that the Clinton administration produced "phony" presidential interviews that wound up on broadcast news. In 1996, Dave Bartlett, then-President of the Radio/Television News Directors Association (RTNDA), was asked by attorney-writer Robert B. Charles to say what he thought was wrong with VNRs. Here's his blockbuster answer: "Fake President Clinton trying to peddle whatever he's trying to peddle this week: The danger is that the audience might think that an interview with President Clinton was generated in a way it was not. Often, the station did not call the White House and secure a hard-hitting interview...The White House doesn't want you to know that they are spending taxpayers' money peddling these phony interviews with the president. I mean, that harms his credibility." It seems that the media didn't want you to know about it either.

Then consider this statement by Bartlett, "That applies to [VNRs by] any politician, since members of Congress do it routinely." Routine, eh? Bet you didn't get that idea from the recent coverage of the Bush VNR "scandal" or the Jeff Gannon brouhaha.Indeed, Charles reported that these phony Clinton interviews were done in a "tax-payer funded television station" in the "belly of the Rayburn Building in Washington." Clinton used taxpayer funds to beam the phony interviews out by satellite to stations across the country. Yet, the media want you to believe this is a breaking news story and that they're going to protect you from the "fake news" out there."

Just another example of "It's news ONLY when Republicans are in it."

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