Thursday, January 13, 2005
by Wayne Besen
Conservative commentator Armstrong Williams is embroiled in a scandal where the Bush administration paid him $240,000 to promote No Child Left Behind. Democrat Rep. George Miller, who is on the House Education Committee, said the arrangement using taxpayer's money was "probably illegal." When Williams said he represented values, we never knew he meant the value of his bank account.
As someone who has met the slippery Williams, I'm not the slightest bit surprised that he pawned his opinion to the highest bidder.
A few years ago, I was on the Armstrong Williams show as a representative for the Human Rights Campaign. From the moment our eyes met, we clashed. He looked at me and scowled in disgust and I glared back at him. I immediately felt that Williams had more issues than a New York magazine stand and was a master phony that dripped with self-loathing hypocrisy.
It wasn't William's right wing views that so rattled me. After all, I had debated many leading Neo-Puritans and actually found a few of them – such as Sean Hannity and Cal Thomas – pleasant and even courteous off the air. What unnerved me about Williams was that I felt he genuinely hated my guts because I was openly gay. This was no standard political disagreement, but a very personal one, where Williams seemed threatened by my very existence.
Our on-air debate grew unusually testy, with Williams teaming up with some unmemorable right wing lawyer to denounce homosexuality. Usually, when a show cuts to commercial break, there is a cease-fire in the culture war as the debaters make uneasy small talk. However, when the commercials came on, Williams' gloves came off. He launched into an unprovoked anti-gay Jeremiad and bizarrely began defending his own heterosexual credentials.
"I know who I am and I know what I like. I'm a man and I'm comfortable with who I am." Williams repeated this several times, not exactly sounding like the paragon of comfort he was trying to impart.
Unsettled by William's surreal behavior, I did a Lexis-Nexis search that evening and what I found wasn't the slightest bit surprising.
In 1997, Stephen Gregory, a former male employee, sued Williams for $200,000 accusing the anti-gay commentator of sexual harassment. Gregory alleged that Williams kissed his mouth, fondled his fanny, groped his groin and climbed into bed with him on business trips. Gregory said that Williams – who denied being gay - fired him after he rebuffed the conservative's advances.
Thanks to this week's propaganda scandal - to paraphrase Williams – now we all know who Williams is and what he apparently likes: Men and Money.
But the greater outrage is not Williams' despicable, unethical and unprofessional behavior. After all, it is not entirely unexpected that a black, homophobic former protégé of the late Strom Thurmond and Clarence Thomas who is accused of fondling a man might sell his soul. No, the real crime is the Bush administration's proliferation of propaganda in what is supposed to be a free country.
About the same time as the Williams expose, the Government Accountability Office accused the Bush administration of violating federal law by producing phony news segments about drug abuse. This propaganda disguised as genuine news appeared on 300 television stations and reached 22 million households.
Meanwhile, an internal CIA investigation found this week that its former director, George Tenet, failed to adequately protect America from terrorism prior to 9-11. His reward for this historical and deadly blunder: The Presidential Medal of Freedom. And as we watch the CNN split screen, we can see the administration's chief architect of torture, Alberto Gonzales, getting the nomination for Attorney General, while the booby trap called Iraq continues to bleed America.
The Los Angeles Times also revealed that conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted $42,200 in gifts making him by far the largest recipient from 1998-2004. To give you an idea of the extent of Thomas's penchant for presents, the next closest gift recipient was Justice Sandra Day O'Connor who accepted a mere $5,825 in gifts.
America under Bush is a political Red Light District where the greatest sacrifice one can make is to lie in the name of loyalty. It is a twisted world of politicians pimping policy for perks and political prostitutes trading their reputation for riches. This corrupt system has a corrosive affect on the political process in America and explains the rise of dozens of mendacious pseudo-experts like Williams and Ann Coulter.
Fortunately, Tribune Media Services dropped Armstrong Williams' syndicated column this week. I'm sure, however, it won't take long before Williams resurfaces. Thanks to the Greedy Orwellian Pravda (GOP) there is a premium for "journalists" who play on the team. If Williams is fortunate enough to get caught in another couple of administration-centered scandals, he might even be eligible for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
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