Video clip from C-Span. At a 2008 book party for Dr. Carson’s Take the Risk, attended by such notables as Sam Donaldson and Ben Bernanke, Williams fusses and hovers over Carson like an anxious parent.
Armstrong Williams is an interesting fellow and his closeness to a potential presidential candidate makes him even more provocative. The fact that Williams roused the ire of a powerhouse like Michelle Malkin makes him worth vetting.
When Michelle Malkin mentioned in a 2013 National Review Online article that conservative media/entrepreneur Armstrong Williams made a $240,000 deal in 2005 with Bush’s Department of Education to sell No Child Left Behind to the black community, I hardly noticed.
The name Armstrong Williams seemed familiar but didn’t sound any alarms. It was not until I wrote two articles for American Thinker [here and here] about rising conservative star Dr. Ben Carson that Ms.Malkin’s column on President George W. Bush’s “astroturfing…education racket” and payola scheme with Williams hit a nerve.
“Pay for pander” scheme
While doing research for AT, I discovered several sources mentioned that Williams was Carson’s “business manager”—which made fellow conservative Malkin’s scathing criticism of Williams even more intriguing.
In the NRO piece, she prefaced her reference to Williams with a warning to “beware of conservative fronts” and to remember that “under George W. Bush, the federal Department of Education paid GOP mouthpiece/columnist Armstrong Williams to shill for No Child Left Behind.”
I rooted around a little more and found Malkin’s 2005 articles on what she called Armstrong’s agreement to take money from the feds in exchange for marketing NCLB a “Pay to Pander” scandal. Here’s how the conservative commentator put it:
There are no shades of grey about this friends: the Bush education Department subsidized a prominent minority conservative “journalist” with federal taxpayer dollars to sell black parents on the Ted Kennedy-inpsired No Child Left Behind boondoggle…the fiscally irresponsible, ethically challenged and possible illegal arrangement deserves only one thing from conservatives: unqualified contempt.
And Malkin wasn’t the only conservative fired up about Williams selling journalistic favors for money. The National Review’s Jonah Goldberg said at the time that Williams should give the money back and “should be ashamed of himself for taking it, he called the situation “gross.”
After six years of the mainstream media shilling for Obama, what Williams did might seem like small potatoes, but sketchy deals between media and politicians are still sketchy deals despite their magnitude.
Sued for sexual harassment
Williams got some other publicity he wished he hadn’t eight years before the NCLB fiasco. Williams was sued by one of his male employees at his PR firm Graham Williams for sexual harassment. The case went public and with the help of some high-powered DC lawyers, Williams survived the ordeal pretty much unscathed. New York Magazine ran this tidbit in one of the news and report columns back in 1997.
…Armstrong Williams, the conservative talk-show host who instigated a firestorm last week by asking the senator from Mississippi whether homosexuality is a sin, is being sued for sexual harassment by a former employee who happens to be male. Last year, Stephen Gregory — the former YMCA personal trainer whom Williams promoted to executive producer of his show — alleged in his suit that the boss grabbed his buttocks and penis, tried to kiss him, and climbed into his hotel-room bed asking for “affection” while they were traveling together. Williams immediately held a press conference to denounce Gregory’s allegations as “false, baseless, and completely without merit.” Gregory’s attorney, Mickey Wheatley, who says the case will probably proceed to trial this fall, has spoken with Gregory since Williams’s news-making interview with Lott. “He’s not that political,” says Wheatley, “but his reaction was, ‘That sounds like Armstrong shooting his mouth off.’ ” Neither Williams nor his attorney could be reached on deadline.
At the time, a Washington City Paper reporter interviewed Gregory in a lengthy “He Said/He Said” story which delved into each party’s background and the specific charges.
In the end, the journalist acknowledges that he doesn’t know who to believe but one thing is for sure, the scandal did not ruin Williams or his career to any great extent.
Williams and Carson go back a long time
Carson and Armstrong have been together a long time. Armstrong and Oprah’s lifelong steady, Stedman Graham, established their own PR firm called the Graham Williams Group in 1990. The two worked and some say lived together in High Point, North Carolina while working for B&C Associates, an African-American Public Relations company. Later Williams bought Graham out and took over the firm himself. GWG has represented Carson through the years and Williams sits on Carson’s educational non profit, the Carson Scholar’s Fund.
The two seem inseparable. A recent Politico article entitled “Who is Ben Carson?” clearly sees Armstrong as the man behind the man. The Beatles had Brian Epstein; Carson has Williams.
Behind Ben Carson’s media affairs sits a man named Armstrong Williams. Williams introduces himself as Carson’s business manager…. A nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, Williams also hosts a daily radio show and TV program called The Right Side with Armstrong Williams. He is also founder and CEO of the Graham Williams Group, an international marketing, advertising and media public relations consulting firm.
Williams broadcasts from an office near Washington’s Union Station. When I visited recently, he insisted I remain seated while he stood, addressing me from above. “Thank you for being on time,” he said as he then walked out the door I’d just come in. Twenty minutes later, another man led me through Williams’ radio studio and through another door. There behind a curtain sat Williams and, to his left, Dr. Ben Carson.
I had read Carson’s 2013 book, America the Beautiful, which I brought up to get the ball rolling.
“We can’t talk about the book,” Williams interjected.
A pause. What author can’t talk about their book?
“He’s referring to the last book,” Carson said, reading me. Apparently the forthcoming book was off the table.