Strong-Arming Armstrong

I wasn’t going to comment on the whole Armstrong Williams debacle, as it’s been well covered on other sites (including the National Association of Black Journalists great response), and I didn’t have anything particular noteworthy to add.

Except I just happened to catch Williams being interviewed on last night’s O’Reilly Factor, and I’m absolutely fuming. O’Reilly, who has defended Dick Cheney’s 1986 vote against a House resolution calling for Nelson Mandela's release from prison, Chris Wallace’s comparison of Teresa Heinz Kerry to Eva Perón, President Bush’s repeated allusions to Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as the "smoking gun" link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and on and on and on and on, actually took Williams to task for his mind-blowingly inappropriate decision to accept an illegal and unethical payment to whore for the administration.

I have never before seen anything like this "interview" on the O'Reilly Factor. O’Reilly scolded Williams like a bad puppy, and Williams, in a performance worthy of Stepin Fetchit, responded with wide-eyed naivety and shame—Gee, I see your point, Bill. I didn’t even think I was doing anything wrong. You’re so right, Bill. I sure have learned my lesson. If he said he’s learned his lesson once, he said it three times, while Bill admonished him, pointing out that he would never do something so stupid. The two even agreed that losing his column with Tirbune Media Services was just the price you pay when you make such a dumb mistake.

The irony is that Williams was targeted by the administration specifically to sing the praises of No Child Left Behind to the black community. Used because he was black, he is now left out to dry for the same reason. Unlike the aforementioned administration leaders and media personality, Williams’ behavior is immediately indefensible—no continued defense until the shit really hits the fan, like the approach taken in justifying the nomination of Bernard Kerik. When the Bush administration paid people to pose as journalists praising the benefits of the new Medicare law, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson (whose department coordinated the videos) wasn’t sent to Fox News Channel to be condescendingly reprimanded and take the fall for the administration’s bad decision. No, only Williams became a sacrificial lamb, his defense being an unimaginable ignorance about how the world works.

Once again, the Republican machine relies on the regrettably dependable biases and fears of their minions to deflect responsibility. This might be acceptable to the Bush administration, and to the viewers of Fox News, but I cannot for the life of me imagine why it was acceptable to Armstrong Williams. $240,000 doesn’t seem an irresistible fee in exchange for a soul.

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