A Feb. 9 NewsBusters post by Scott Whitlock noted that MSNBC had on "syndicated talk show host Armstrong Williams to bash Limbaugh over the issue of how much power the radio star has within the GOP." Unmentioned by Whitlock: Williams is a conservative.
Very much mentioned by Whitlock, though:
Williams has been a somewhat less prominent figure since an incident in 2005 in which it was revealed that he had been paid $240,000 to promote President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" act on his syndicated television show. According to a January 5, 2005 USA Today article, the host said he didn't recall mentioning the agreement on air.
That appears to be the first time the MRC has used this against Williams or even mentioned it in a critical way. After all, nobody -- especially fellow conservatives -- is permitted to say anything negative about the sainted Limbaugh. (Whitlock does note that Rep. Phil Gingrey found that out the hard way.) When the MRC has mentioned it in the past, it was to minimize Williams' transgressions in the face of allegedly more serious scandals involving liberals:
- A January 2005 CyberAlert wasn't happy that Keith Olbermann "insisted on Monday night that the case of Armstrong Williams taking money from the Bush administration combined with the CBS panel finding no political bias behind CBS's hit job on President Bush, discredits the idea of any liberal media bias."
- A January 2006 column by Brent Bozell noted that "The liberal media made loud grunts and noises over columnist Armstrong Williams," and concedes that "If a columnist is working for a government program or entity, it’s always best to disclose to readers your involvement, so they can judge your point of view more fully." Bozell then immediately plays the equivalence game: "But where is that media-ethics crowd erupting with the same outrage when liberal journalists – even major liberal journalists – cut ethical corners and feather their own political nests?"
- Bozell plays the same equivalence game in a November 2006 column, noting that liberals "complained when conservative P.R. man Armstrong Williams struck a deal with the Department of Education to promote the Bush 'No Child Left Behind' policy," then adding: "But the same left-wing crowd that claims to hate propaganda seems to be offering nothing but flowers and best wishes for the November launch of al-Jazeera English."
We've previously noted that the MRC's news operation, CNSNews.com, ignored the Williams scandal when it first broke. But in October 2008, CNS quoted Williams questioning the "credibility" fo Gwen Ifill for moderating a vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin when Ifill had authored a bookon black politicians in the "age of Obama." CNS did not note the pot-kettle-black irony of Williams' claim.