No. Never. Not one penny.
In the wake of reports last week that the Bush Education Department paid Republican pundit Armstrong Williams $241,000 to flack for its "diversity"-friendly policies while Williams posed as an independent commentator, readers have begun sending e-mails asking whether I am also on the GOP take. There seems to be an orchestrated campaign now because I've received several letters with the exact same wording:
"Have you, at any time, taken money from the Bush administration in exchange for promotion of the administration's policies?"
Hostile readers assert that if I ignore their e-mails, they'll assume I am getting paid off by the Bush administration. So, here I am, answering this question instead of reporting on the Michael Chertoff nomination (smart move) or Kid Rock's invitation to the inaugural celebration (dumb move) or the CBS/Memogate scandal (they're still in dinosaur media denial).
Speaking of being in denial, some conservatives argue that the Pay to Pander program is no big deal compared to the CBS scandal. The Clinton administration did it, too, they point out. Other liberal journalists have failed to disclose ethically suspicious payments, they steam. Excuses, excuses. I thought we on the Right stood against such expedient moral equivalence.
There are no shades of gray about this, friends: the Bush Education Department subsidized a prominent minority conservative "journalist" with federal taxpayer dollars to sell black parents on the Teddy Kennedy-inspired No Child Left Behind boondoggle -- a program that represents the largest single expansion in federal education spending since Jimmy Carter created the Education Department.
This fiscally irresponsible, ethically challenged and possibly illegal arrangement deserves only one thing from conservatives: unqualified contempt.
Ever since I began penning conservative opinions and investigative journalism nearly 15 years ago, liberals have accused me of getting paid to think my own thoughts. The attacks I face every day -- in e-mail, on the airwaves and in person -- are far more vicious in nature than most conservative journalists receive because I also happen to be a woman and a minority.
Rabid liberal elitists expect and demand that "women of color" in public and political life adopt their left-wing political orthodoxy. When we don't accept such tripe, their racist and sexist diatribes against us are unmatched.