Bush Orders an End to Hiring Columnists
President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries Wednesday not to hire columnists to promote administration agendas after disclosure that a second writer had been paid to assist an agency. “All our Cabinet secretaries must realize that we will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda,” Bush said at a news conference. “Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet.” The president said he expects his agency heads will “make sure that that practice doesn’t go forward.”
Bush’s remarks came a day after syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher apologized to readers for not disclosing a $21,500 contract with the Health and Human Services Department to help create materials promoting the agency’s $300 million initiative to encourage marriage. The president also said the White House had been unaware that the Education Department paid commentator and columnist Armstrong Williams $240,000 to plug its policies. That contract became known two weeks ago.
Bush said there “needs to be a nice independent relationship between the White House and the press, the administration and the press.”
No kidding. As the rest of the piece makes clear, the Gallagher case is different from Armstrong’s. Still, this practice was obviously something that creates an impression of impropriety that far outweighs whatever value it was going to deliver.