Columnist Under Fire Gets Show on Radio
By ANNE E. KORNBLUT and BEN SISARIO
Published: March 3, 2005
WASHINGTON, March 2 - Armstrong Williams, the conservative commentator embroiled in controversy after being paid to promote Bush administration policies, has signed a contract to be a co-host of a daily radio talk show in New York.
The three-hour show, "Drive Time Dialogue," will begin on March 15 on WWRL, 1600 AM. Broadcasting from a studio installed in his Capitol Hill offices, Mr. Williams will present the conservative point of view. He will be countered by Sam Greenfield, as the liberal voice, from New York.
Adriane Gaines, the general manager of WWRL, said Mr. Williams was hired as part of an effort to "bring a new, interested audience to increase our ratings."
Three investigations are under way into the $240,000 contracts between the Department of Education; Ketchum Public Relations, which hired Mr. Williams on the department's behalf; and Mr. Williams, a prominent black conservative commentator who wrote a weekly column and made frequent national television appearances until earlier this year.
Mr. Williams, 45, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas whose column had been printed in about 50 newspapers nationwide, was dropped in January by his major syndicator, Tribune Media Services, after it was revealed that he had been paid to promote the president's signature education legislation, No Child Left Behind.
Whether his tarred legitimacy as a journalist will affect his standing - for better or for worse - in a less rigorous radio format remains to be seen. "I think he's going to labor with a question mark about him, given this scandal," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
But, Mr. Kohut said: "In the realm of combative media it might even be a mark of distinction, who knows? This kind of political chat show is full of people with a lot of attitude and maybe even some baggage. It's not like he will be an anchor on CNN."
Mr. Williams said he expected callers to badger him about the controversy at first. "That goes with the turf," he said. "You don't just recoup your credibility in two months. I'm going to have to spend some time earning the trust and credibility of others again. They can't just judge me by the rhetoric of my apology; they have to judge what I do."
Ms. Gaines, the station manager, said she did not believe Mr. Williams had been compromised as a political commentator. "We feel it's something that unfortunately happened but we can all move on," she said.
Mr. Williams's work, and subsequent revelations about other conservatives on the federal payroll, have triggered widespread questions about the Bush administration's efforts to manipulate public opinion. Mr. Williams was paid to produce and present television commercials promoting the Bush education platform. Around the same time, he also wrote at least four positive columns about No Child Left Behind. He has since said the columns had nothing to do with his government contract.
Anne E. Kornblut reported from Washington for this article, and Ben Sisario from New York.
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/03/arts/ ... 03&ei=5070