- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

Columnist and public relations executive Armstrong Williams, tainted by a story of being paid to promote a Bush administration program, returns to the airwaves next week in the nation’s largest media market.

Mr. Williams will co-host “Drive Time Dialogue,” a daily political radio program for New York-based WWRL-AM (1600), with the show’s other host, Sam Greenfeld, as the liberal counterpart to Mr. Williams’ strong conservative views. He begins the new show next Tuesday.

WWRL Program Director Rennie Bishop said the lineup gives his station a one-two punch in the morning and evening.

“There are few conservatives broadcasting in New York and no black conservatives. There is Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and a whole lineup of folks from ABC, but not what we have with left-right, white-black,” Mr. Bishop said.

Mr. Williams said he is hopeful that he can regain the trust of his friends, listeners and clients.

“It is good to know that media outlets still want to hear my voice on the air,” he said. “It is a slow process, but we are gradually moving back and trying to do it right, and I have to earn the people’s trust again, and we are.”

The station’s morning show with the same name pits conservative talk show host Steve Malzberg opposite political independent Hunter College professor Karen Hunter. “And then we flip the script, as the kids say, in the afternoon,” Mr. Bishop said.

The program manager discounted all the controversy surrounding Mr. Williams’ $240,000 contract with the Education Department to promote the No Child Left Behind Act, a policy the conservative commentator said he agrees with and supports.

“I think Armstrong has brought so much to the talk arena over a long period to time, to let one indiscretion tarnish his contribution — whether you agree with him or not — you can’t discount what he brings,” Mr. Bishop said.

Democrats have called for investigations into payola contracts, a code word for paid promotion by journalists, since Mr. Williams’ deal was revealed in a USA Today story in early January. Since then, others have been discovered to have received funds, with most deals being revealed by liberal organizations like the Center for American Progress.

In January, the center released a report that said conservative columnist Michael McManus was paid $10,000 to promote President Bush’s marriage initiative and columnist Maggie Gallagher was paid $20,000 for the same purpose.

A more controversial incident came to light last month: It was discovered that Internet blogger James Gukert obtained a White House press pass under the name Jeff Gannon and wrote stories for GOPUSA.com and the conservative-leaning Talon News.

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