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More Bush propaganda shilling policies disguised as "news and commentary"

As we watch Armstrong Williams squirm on the networks about prostituting himself for the Bush administration, there’s wind that this kind of deceptive activity is more than a one-off experiment for the White House. (WPost via

Shortly before last year’s Super Bowl, local news stations across the country aired a story by Mike Morris describing plans for a new White House ad campaign on the dangers of drug abuse.

What viewers did not know was that Morris is not a journalist and his ”report” was produced by the government, actions which constituted illegal ”covert propaganda,” according to an investigation by the Government Accountability Office.

In the second ruling of its kind, the investigative arm of Congress this week scolded the Bush administration for distributing phony prepackaged news reports that include a ”suggested live intro” for anchors to read, interviews with Washington officials, and a closing that mimics a typical broadcast news sign-off.

Although television stations knew the materials were produced by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, there was nothing in the two-minute, prepackaged reports that would indicate to viewers that they came from the government or that Morris, a former journalist, was working under contract for the government.

”You think you are getting a news story but what you are getting is a paid announcement,” said Susan Poling, managing associate general counsel at the Government Accountability Office. ”What is objectionable about these is the fact the viewer has no idea their tax dollars are being used to write and produce this video segment.”

In May, the Government Accountability Office concluded that the Department of Health and Human Services violated two federal laws with similar fake news reports touting the administration’s new Medicare drug benefit. When that opinion was released, officials at the drug control office decided to stop the practice, spokesman Thomas Riley said.

”Our lawyers disagree with the GAO interpretation,” he said. Nevertheless, if the video releases were going to be ”controversial or create an appearance of a problem,” the agency decided it was not worth pursuing, he said.

If the videos had been identified as coming from the federal agency, that would have been legal, Poling said. But the television package looks like an authentic piece of independent journalism.

This is truly scandalous and illegal activity, designed to manipulate the distracted audience, who isn’t going to ask whether the news source is a legitimate one. Actually, there’s not much you can trust out there as unbiased, but this activity is government-sponsored, and therefore propaganda. ILLEGAL. Where is the Dem outrage?

Thanks to House Blend reader Patrick for the pointer.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding