Ken Silverstein at Harper's Wednesday delivers a deeply satisfying one-two punch against David Broder, the so-called "dean" of Washington political reporters.
Broder was on-line with readers when this exchange occurred:
Re: Speaking Fees: A few weeks ago, the paper's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, wrote a critical piece about your acceptance of speaking fees and the fact that you have spoken before groups that lobby Congress on several occasions. How much do think this revelation hurts your credibility? Personally, I find it difficult to take you seriously on any of the issues (like health care) where you accepted fees and accomodations from advocacy groups in the area.
David S. Broder: You are certainly entitled to judge my work by whatever standard you wish. I iwould simply point out to you that I have never accepted a speaking fee from a health care or medical group since I started covering that policy area 16 years ago.
In fact, Howell was spurred to write her piece by Silverstein's digging in June.
What he found, and what Broder admitted to when Howell pressed him, was that he had broken the Washington Post's rules regarding accepting speaking engagements without advance permission from an editor. While he didn't accept a fee from Western Conference of Prepaid Medical Service Plans (mostly Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans) when he spoke at their event last October, they did cover travel and hotel accommodations for him, Silverstein discovered, noting that "at minimum he is parsing words." And Broder did at the same time write a column sympathetic to a health care plan Blue Cross likes.
That's not all. Silverstein writes:
...Broder has apparently spoken at least three other times before health care groups:
At the Association for Community Health Improvement in 2005, at the Hyatt Regency in Tampa, Florida. The group is a coalition of for-profit and non-profit hospitals, government health officials, community health centers.
At the American College of Physicians, during a lobbying visit the group paid to Washington in the summer of 2005.
At the American Academy of Family Physicians in 1999, in Orlando, Florida.
Was Broder paid for these speeches, or did he accept travel and accommodations for the trips to Florida? Maybe the Post should find out.
Silverstein chose kindness in saying that what Broder did in another instance was to "flagrantly mislead" readers, when "lied to" would have been just as accurate. The columnist had told Howell when she was writing her column critiquing him that he had attended an American Council for Capital Formation event, "but did not give a speech" to the group, as Silverstein reported. But, in fact, an ACCF publication reported on Broder’s speech to the group and included a photograph of him addressing the crowd.
A question worth investigating for some individual with time on her hands, or of a collaborative group, is how many columnists are paid for speaking engagements and subsequently, without disclosing their financial interests, write favorably about the groups who paid them. The only difference between this kind of behavior and what Armstrong Williams did is that former Tribune Media Services/Los Angeles Times Syndicate columnist took taxpayer money for his shillery.
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