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Friday, April 18, 2008
Armstrong Williams Fluffs HUD Chief, Ignores Scandals
Topic: Newsmax

An April 17 Newsmax column by Armstrong Williams is sycophantically complimentary of outgoing Housing and Urban Development secretary Alphonso Jackson, depicting the controversies surrounding him as unrelated to his performance:

In sports, coaches similar to Secretary Jackson are in tough positions. The team wins and the credit goes to the “star player.” Not the coach of course, but the home-run hitter, perfect shooter, or lightning-fast running back. However, if the team loses, it’s the coach that’s often attributed blame.

Washington is no different.


When Secretary Jackson’s initiatives led the nation towards its housing goals, he surely deserved coach of the year; but critics call foul once and the secretary’s vast, sometimes even record-breaking accomplishments are somehow passed over. 

Williams claimed that "a recent [Washington] Post story blam[ed] him for the housing and mortgage crisis facing this country," going on to call the article "mean spirited and way out of bounds." In fact, the story doesn't do that but, rather, suggests that he made things worse because he did little to react to it:

In late 2006, as economists warned of an imminent housing market collapse, housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson repeatedly insisted that the mounting wave of mortgage failures was a short-term "correction."

He pushed for legislation that would make it easier for federally backed lenders to make mortgage loans to risky borrowers who put less money down. He issued a rule that was criticized by law enforcement authorities because it could increase the difficulty of detecting and proving mortgage fraud.


[C]ritics say an equally significant legacy of his four years as the nation's top housing officer was gross inattention to the looming housing crisis.

They contend that Jackson ignored warnings from within his agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, whose inspector general told Congress that some of the secretary's efforts were "ill-advised policy" and likely to put more families at risk of losing their homes.

Williams glancingly refers to "[t]he inspector’s general’s investigation into favoritism of Mr. Jackson and other allegations" but offers no further detail of the allegations. Williams also wrote that "sometimes his often shoot-from-the-hip remarks have gotten him into controversial waters and have alienated him from many of his would be allies." But he didn't mention that the two are directly linked: Jackson had claimed during a speech that he how he once had killed a contract award because the contractor had disparaged his friend President Bush, which set off an investigation into favoritism at HUD. Jackson is now facing a broader investigation into contract favoritism, especially after Jackson testified before Congress that he didn't intervened in contracts.

Toward the end of his column, Williams writes: "I must admit for full disclosure that Secretary Jackson has been a friend for many years and I’ve been fortunate to watch him up close and cover him in many of our media forums. However, my admiration for him doesn’t color my written or broadcast commentary." Yeah, right. 

Posted by Terry K. at 9:31 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2008 1:11 PM EDT

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