Armstrong Williams' column in today's Washington Times features this passage:
For two consecutive election cycles, Republicans suffered humiliating losses because they couldn't grasp the weight of their corruptive ways and the bitterness it left with voters. Obama's team helped to blur that line last week, and today, the administration has lost the moral high ground.
"Moral high ground"? Armstrong Williams, you might recall, is most famous for taking secret payments from the government in exchange for using his platform as a "journalist" to promote government policies. The only thing Armstrong Williams knows about the "moral high ground" is that it's an awfully long way up.
News outlets including CNN, the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times uncritically quoted White House spokeswoman Dana Perino's response to a question about an October 23 Federal Emergency Management Agency press conference, in which the questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters. Perino said of the conference, "It is not a practice that we would employ here at the White House and we certainly don't condone it." But these news outlets failed to note previous Bush administration scandals involving "fake" reporting.
In Patrick Healy's recent front-page New York Times article on the state of the Clintons' marriage, Healy noted that a "tabloid photograph" of former President Bill Clinton "was enough to fuel coverage in the gossip pages." Media Matters does not endorse the decision by elite media figures to take their cues from tabloids, but if they do so, we expect them to be consistent. As it happens, the cover of the May 29 edition of the Globe magazine contains a headline about another high-profile political couple: "BUSH MARRIAGE BREAKUP! EXCLUSIVE! SEPARATE LIVES IN THE WHITE HOUSE."
The White House released a series of statements, reportedly initiated by new press secretary Tony Snow, attacking specific media reports and editorials as misleading. Conservatives in the media have touted the statements as indicative of a new willingness on the part of the White House communications office, led by Snow, to call the press on its misinformation. But Media Matters for America has found that, of the six "Setting the Record Straight" releases issued from May 8 to May 11, at least four are highly misleading.
Reporting on a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study that found that the Bush administration has spent $1.6 billion in public relations contracts since 2003, Brit Hume noted the White House claim that its use of "video news releases" is legal. However, Hume did not report that, according to the GAO, this practice violates federal law.
NBC anchor Brian Williams condoned the Bush administration's paying a columnist to tout administration views in his column and the former Republican CPB chairman's intervention in the programming decisions of PBS, despite reports by the GAO and the CPB inspector general alleging that such actions violate federal law.