Armstrong Williams: My Apology
Ohanian Comment: See the next item, by David Corn, for my experience in discussing NCLB with Armstrong Williams.
In 2003, I agreed to run a paid ad on my syndicated television show, promoting the Department of Education’s No Child Left Behind Act. I subsequently used my column space to support that legislation. This represents an obvious conflict of interests. People have used this conflict of interests to portray my column as being paid for by the Bush Administration. Nothing could be further from the truth.
At the same time, I understand that I exercised bad judgment in running paid advertising for an issue that I frequently write about in my column. People need to know that my column is uncorrupted by any outside influences. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my bad judgment, and to better explain the circumstances.
In 2003 Ketchum Communications contacted a small PR firm that I own, Graham Williams Group, to buy ad space on a television show that I own and host. The ad was to promote The Department of Education’s “No Child Left Behind” plan. I have long felt that school vouchers hold the greatest promise of ending the racial education gap in this country. We need to hold schools accountable for their failures and create incentives to change. That is why I have vigorously supported school vouchers for the past decade—in print, on TV, during media appearances and in lectures. I believe that school vouchers represent the greatest chance of stimulating hope for young, inner city school children—often of color. In fact, I am a board member of Black Americans for Educational Options (BAEO), because I feel that school choice plans hold the promise of a new civil rights movement.
In the past I have used my column space to convey the promise of school options. I continued to do so, even after receiving money to run a series of ads on my television show promoting the “No Child Left Behind” act. I now realize that I exercised poor judgment in continuing to write about a topic which my PR firm was being paid to promote.
The fact is, I run a small business. I am CEO and manage the syndication and advertising for my television show. In between juggling my commentaries and media appearances, I stepped over the line. This has never happened before. In fact, my company has never worked on a government contract. Nor have we ever received compensation for an issue that I subsequently reported on. This will never happen again. I now realize that I have to create inseparable boundaries between my role as a small businessman and my role as an independent commentator.
I also understand that people must be able to trust that my commentary is unbiased. Please know that I supported school vouchers long before the Department of Education ran a single ad on my TV Show. I did not change my views just because my PR firm was receiving paid advertising promoting the No Child Left Behind Act. I did however exercise bad judgment by accepting advertising for an issue that I frequently write about in my column. I apologize for this bad judgment, for creating questions in people’s minds as to whether my commentary was sincere, and for bringing shame and embarrassment to the newspapers that run my commentary.
I accept full responsibility for my lack of good judgment. I am paying the price. Tribune Media has cancelled my column. And I have learned a valuable lesson. I just want to assure you that this will never happen again, and to ask for your forgiveness.
I hope that we can put this mistake behind us, and that I can continue to bring the same unique and impassioned perspective that I brought to this space in the past.
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES