A grey-haired editor once told me, “Journalism is a whore riding a black horse.” The black horse, he explained, is newspaper ink. I was a college senior, a journalism major, caught up in the nobility of the Fourth Estate, and I suppose he intended to tamp down my enthusiasm. Now, almost 30 years later, I still want to believe in my chosen profession and the noble pedestal on which it perches.
So, when it comes to journalism, there’s nothing like a little hypocrisy to get my hackles up. Saturday morning MSNBC’s Amy Robach asked guest Armstrong Williams about “the center-right myth” - the latest conservative mantra.
When Robach suggested this was a way to keep the word “right” in the electoral equation after an Obama victory, Williams explained that America is at “center-right,” because Americans still cherish “moral values.” (The implication, of course, is that Americans on the left have no moral values.)
I almost fell out of my chair! Armstrong Williams talking about moral values is more than I can stomach. This from a man, a professional broadcast journalist, who prostituted himself by taking money to promote one of George W. Bush’s pet projects.
In 2004 Williams, an African-American, signed a $240,000 contract with the Department of Education to promote Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program among black Americans – to peddle propaganda masked as straight news. He was subsequently issued a citation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and stiff fines were imposed against his employers, Sonshine Family Television and the Sinclair Broadcast Group.
Funny how persons who have made Faustian deals end up on cable news. Fox News’ lineup is full of them. And, now comes word that CNN has hired Stephen Hayes as “Part of the Best Political Team on Television.” Neocon Hayes has for the last eight years been a trumpeter for Bush’s “war on terror,” continuously lying about a Saddam Hussein-al Qaeda connection.
Perhaps that grey-haired editor was right, after all.