Columnist Group Prez Criticizes Armstrong Williams Probe

By: Dave Astor National Society of Newspaper Columnists President Suzette Martinez Standring is not impressed with a U.S. Department of Education probe of government money that went to conservative commentator Armstrong Williams.

The probe found that DOE officials showed poor judgment in hiring Williams to promote the No Child Left Behind law, but said there was no evidence of legal or ethical violations, according to a Friday Associated Press story.

E&P asked Standring, as head of the 578-member NSNC, for a reaction to these findings. The self-syndicated columnist e-mailed: "Government and journalistic wordsmiths seem to be at odds regarding the inspector-general's investigation of the Armstrong Williams controversy. I laughed out loud when Education Secretary Margaret Spellings suggested the $240,000 payoff to Williams might have begun as a hint by senior officials, later misread by minions that, in turn, may have led to a 'chain reaction within the building to carry out the request.'"

Standring added: "The report comes across as a chagrined 'oopsie!' It describes Armstrong's hiring to shill for No Child Left Behind policies as 'poor judgment.' We maintain 'ethical lapse.' They say 'mistake,' we say 'abuse.' In our dictionary, the Department of Education's 'public relations minority outreach' is better defined under 'covert propaganda.' You say potahto, I say payola.'"

Tribune Media Services dropped Williams' column when his DOE deal was disclosed in January.


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