It turns out conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher was taking government money for propagandizing on behalf of a government program, just like Armstrong Williams.
Best of all was her reaction to getting caught:
- "Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?" Gallagher said yesterday. "I don't know. You tell me." She said she would have "been happy to tell anyone who called me" about the contract but that "frankly, it never occurred to me" to disclose it.
Perhaps Gallagher can be forgiven her abysmal ignorance of journalistic ethics. After all she, like the vast majority of right-wing pundits who now populate the journalistic landscape, has zero experience in the nuts and bolts of actual reporting.
So we'll be happy to tell Gallagher: Your career as a journalist is over. Or ought to be. Simply because it didn't occur to you to disclose it.
Funny thing about that, though: Back in September, Gallagher seemed to know enough about journalistic ethics to pontificate at length on the subject in the case of Dan Rather:
- Journalists don't talk like that. How could Dan know this story was true? Was he there? Did he see it personally? Of course not. Why was he vouching for the story in the language of faith, not like a hard-headed journalist reporting the evidence?
Yes, Maggie knows all about those hard-headed types reporting the facts. The ones she's paid to report.
It's one thing to commit a monumental screw-up, as CBS did in the case of its broadcast of the Killian memos. People should get fired for those, and did.
It's quite another to be taking money from either private or government interests about whom you are writing as a professional, especially without disclosing it. That usually means it's time to look into a new career.
Gallagher's only hope at this point is that we start getting a regular parade of conservative pundits who turn out to have been on the Bush administration payroll. Then they can all point at each other and say, "See! Everybody else does it!" Then they call all close ranks and pronounce each other vindicated.
And ya know, I'd bet someone in the White House is working on that talking point.