Monday, February 16, 2015

Armstrong Williams

You may or may not know the name Armstrong Williams. If you know it, you either live in Washington D.C., and/or you were paying attention when his big scandal hit in 2005. IT was about 10 years ago that USA Today used a FOIA request to look into some dubious Bush Administration spending. it turned out that Williams was paid $240k by the U.S. Department of Education, to promote George W. Bush's Education plan a.k.a. the No Child Left Behind Act. The contract with Williams was part of a $700k contract between the U.S. Department of Education and the public relations company, Ketchum Inc. The GAO had some harsh words about this. [SOURCE]

This violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition for fiscal year 2004 because it amounted to covert propaganda. As a result of this violation, the Department also violated the Antideficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. § 1341. 
Strangely Williams was not jailed or fined, and the Department of Education was merely admonished.  In fact, Williams continued on with his career as a broadcaster and commentator as if nothing had happened at all. He currently writes for the Washington Times, the Hill, RightSideWire.Com, and among others. His eponymous Armstrong Williams radio program continues in syndication. It's heard on 620 WGCV-AM, The SiriusXM Urban View, and on 105.9 GEMS-FM, Nassau, Bahamas.But there used to be more. His radio career survived the scandal but not inertia. These are the last refuges of a personality soon to depart the medium.

Williams began his radio career at WOL-AM in Washington, D.C. in 1991.  Four years later his show was syndicated by The Talk America Radio Network. In 1998 the Salem Radio Network syndicated his now national program into 26 markets including St. Louis and Washington D.C.  In 2002, he joined the lineup at 1600 WWRL-AM in New York City.  In 2008 he added a nightly talk show on XM Satellite Radio on the Power 128 channel.

So his radio chops are legit. But what about the scandal. How does a middle market radio host end up getting three quarters of a million dollars to shill for the man? Well let's say it wasn't' the first time, or the last time. In 2005 he took money from the tobacco lobby to attack the FDA. [source] At the time his program was on 60 radio stations. But I think it all goes back to his peculiar interview with Trent Lott in 1998. Back then Williams had a cable TV show. The interview was on Fathers day and the topic was homosexuality. I was a bit of a problem for Lott. On the Armstrong Williams show, Lott equated homosexuality with alcoholism, kleptomania and sex addiction. It was received poorly, but received very heavy coverage.

More recently he's begun buying up media holdings: WJSU-TV, WCFT-TV, WMMP-TV, WEYI-TV, and WWMB-TV.