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Headline Headaches

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There’s a story in today’s USA Today with the headline “President criticizes Education Dept.’s payout to Armstrong.” That would be a great thing, except Bush didn’t do that.

The article is based on an interview with Bush conducted by USA Today’s Richard Benedetto and Judy Keen. The reporters asked Bush if the Department of Education made a mistake. Here is how Bush actually responded:

“Well, obviously, first of all, I’m very aware of which newspaper broke the story. No. I do think that your story brought up serious concerns. And I think there needs to be a clear distinction between journalism and advocacy. And I appreciate the way Armstrong Williams has handled this, because he has made it very clear that he made a mistake. And I think all of us — the Cabinet needs to take a good look and make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”

Bush doesn’t criticize the Department of Education or assign any responsibility to its leaders. He mildly criticizes Armstrong Williams, but only in the context of praising him for the way he “has handled this.”

Here are the questions USA Today should have asked: 1) if Bush knew about the payments to Armstrong Williams in advance; 2) if there are any other “journalists” on the administration payroll; and 3) if he has asked his Cabinet if they are paying anyone else off.

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