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Monday, March 28, 2005 | I was outraged to learn that Armstrong Williams was paid about a quarter million dollars to foist off White House hype as news. Further the idea that a super straight administration would give press credentials to a male prostitute in order for him to throw softball questions to the president is an insult to the American public.

A recent article in The New York Times buttressed my belief that “those guys” were controlling the news. And the practice included at least one TV station in San Diego! The Times reported, “Mike Stutz, news director at KGTV, the ABC affiliate in San Diego, was equally opposed to putting government news segments on the air. ‘It amounts to propaganda, doesn’t it?’ he said.”

Yet the Times article continued, “Again, though, records from Video Monitoring Services of America show that from 2001 to 2004 KGTV ran at least one government-made segment featuring Ms. Ryan (a self described ‘paid shill for the Bush administration’), five others featuring her work on behalf of corporations, and 19 produced by corporations and other outside organizations. It does not appear that KGTV viewers were told the origin of these 25 segments.”

“I thought we were pretty solid,” Mr. Stutz said, adding that they intend to take more precautions.

I’d say that part about taking more precautions was a damn fine idea.

But, guess what! Bush didn’t start such things. It goes back at least as far as the Clinton administration. Furthermore, that liberal did it to further a typically conservative cause – illegal drugs.

In his 1996 State of the Union Address, the “I didn’t like it, and I didn’t inhale, and never used it again” guy announced the promotion of one of Desert Storm’s heroes, Barry McCaffrey from a mere general to czar. He made McCaffrey head of the newly formed Office of National Drug Control Policy.

As czars, not to mention Generals, are wont to, McCaffrey went overboard. As reported by Daniel Forbes in a Salon.com article, the general/czar paid for entire magazine stories, even TV shows.

One TV doozie was a formerly rejected show called “Chicago Hope.” It had the flavor of the 1950s’ “Reefer Madness.” For those of you who missed that bit of culture, it ended up a cult classic mostly watched by pot smoking dudes who chortled at the misconceptions, often while smoking the stuff.

The actions of Channel 10’s news guys, and I suspect others, don’t look so bad by comparison. Magazines such as U.S. News & World Report, The Sporting News, Family Circle, Seventeen, Parade and USA Weekend dutifully played the whore and took advantage of McCaffrey’s largesse. McCaffrey confirmed all this but denied any attempt at coercion. The response from the White House was that the arrangement was a partnership.

OK, so we expect disingenuous statements from politicians, but honesty by the media, where has it gone?

It’s right there on the often touted “bottom line.” And that’s the truth at last.

Keith Taylor is a retired Navy officer living in Chula Vista, Calif., where he spends little time counting his money.

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