Atrios was among the first bloggers to pick up on this startling USA Today story about commentator Armstrong Williams being paid taxpayer money from the Department of Education in order to promote the No Child Left Behind act, and now the story has made it to some of the other bigs, here and here. From the latter:
Williams called criticism of his relationship with the department "legitimate."
"It's a fine line," he told The Associated Press on Friday. "Even though I'm not a journalist -- I'm a commentator -- I feel I should be held to the media ethics standard. My judgment was not the best. I wouldn't do it again, and I learned from it."
Having said that, he doesn't intend to give the nearly quarter of a million dollars of taxpayer money back anytime soon. I'm pretty sure that that call won't be his, and that some Department of Education officials need to go down with him. It's not only Democrats who are rightly noting that the whole thing stinks and needs to be investigated. Here's Jonah, a voice of reason on the right:
I think it was stupid and unacceptable for the Administration to give him the money. If the Clinton Administration had been paying off liberal pundits to promote his policies we would have gone batty, and rightly so. A better explanation is required. The whole thing seems gross to me.
The comparisons with Soviet media are apt. By the way, my favorite article on the Williams affair is from Howie; his piece is infinitely more amusing when you make your way through this.
Oh, and speaking of people who need to return things like really soon, do the right thing, Minky.