- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 15, 2005

In 2003, I agreed to run a paid ad on my syndicated television show, promoting the Education Department’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 I exercised bad judgment in running paid advertising for an issue I frequently write about in my column. People need to know 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 public relations firm I own, Graham Williams Group, to buy ad space on a television show I own and host. The ad was to promote the Department of Education’s “No Child Left Behind” plan. I have long felt 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 school vouchers represent the greatest chance of stimulating hope for young, inner-city schoolchildren — often of color. In fact, I am a board member of Black Americans for Educational Options (BAEO), because I feel 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 I exercised poor judgment in continuing to write on a topic my PR firm was paid to promote.

The fact is, I run a small business. I am chief executive officer and manage the syndication and advertising for my television show. Between juggling my commentaries and media appearances, I stepped over the line. This never happened before. In fact, my company has never worked on a government contract. Nor have we ever received compensation for an issue on which I subsequently reported.

This will never happen again. I now realize I must create inseparable boundaries between my role as a small businessman and my role as an independent commentator.

I also understand people must be able to trust that my commentary is unbiased. Please know I supported school vouchers long before the Education Department ran a single ad on my TV show. I did not change my views just because my PR firm received paid advertising promoting the No Child Left Behind Act. I did, however, exercise bad judgment by accepting advertising for an issue I frequently write about in my column.

I apologize for this bad judgment, for creating questions in people’s minds about the sincerity of my commentary and for bringing shame and embarrassment to the newspapers that run my columns.

I accept full responsibility for my lack of good judgment. I am paying the price. Tribune Media has canceled my column. And I have learned a valuable lesson. I just want to assure you this will never happen again and to ask your forgiveness.

I hope we can put this mistake behind us, and that I can continue to bring the same unique and impassioned perspective I brought to this space in the past.

Sincerely,

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS

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