- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 22, 2005

I know something about ethics, since I serve on the board of ethics and professional practice for my profession. As for Armstrong Williams and the U.S. Education Department, he did nothing unethical. The fact he had to apologize for the perception he did indicts only those ignorant or willfully blind to the facts of this affair (Forum, Jan. 16).

Mr. Williams is well known as an opinion writer, which is not journalism. Consequently such “ethics pertaining to journalism” do not apply to him, nor to anyone else published on the opinion pages. Further, as owner of a small business, he responded to a governmental request for proposal for a contract, as I presume so did a number of other PR firms like his. He was selected because of his reputation and his well-known views. I can see clearly why he was the best candidate for this project, and the government’s lawyers and contracting officers are responsible for his selection, not he.

It is not so clear the U.S. Education department behaved ethically or legally. Now if Mr. Williams had not established his opinion on this matter prior to the contract award, the logical deduction would have been the department bribed him to promote this program. That would have been unethical. But that would put the horse before the cart. There is no problem.

The American public is very experienced in discerning what are commercials, what are “infomercials,” and what should be impartial news reports. I doubt any viewer of the video produced by Mr. Williams was misled.

However, I would hazard a guess the motivation for this uproar has two sources: the teachers’ unions, who are dead-set against this act of Congress, and the far left, who just saw four heads roll at CBS, with their hero Dan Rather eased out because of a real and purposeful breach of the “ethics of journalism.”

DAVID KEYSER

St. Leonard, Md.

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