Friday, December 30, 2005

Bravo! Bolton Aide Smacks Down Payola Pundit


Gets a Well-Deserved Smackdown

One potentially hopeful sign at the UN -- John Bolton is not going to take UN correspondent sleaziness lying down.

The Payola Pundit, UN consultant-correspondent Ian Williams, reveals in a column in Maximsnews today that he was given a well-deserved tongue-lashing by Bolton's press secretary for a disgusting performance at the famous Kofi Annan year-end press conference on Dec. 21. That's the one in which Annan skewered Times of London correspondent James Bone. As noted in a recent item, the "journalists" in attendance reacted to the tantrum with a combination of cowardice and butt-kissing of Annan.

The worst, predictably, was Williams -- whose columns for left-wing rags such as The Nation have consisted largely of knee-jerk defences of Kofi Annan. So not long after Annan went beserk, Williams took over the microphone and launched a lengthy rant over a red herring having nothing to do with the UN -- the alleged misappropriation of funds by U.S. officers in Iraq.

This was nauseating even by Williams standards -- which are pretty low. As memorably revealed by Accuracy in Media and FrontPage Magazine, Williams is the gold standard of UN-hack sleaze. He has served as a media-trainer and booklet-writer for the UN at the same time as he covered the UN for various publications. He also wangled a cushy UN correspondent association gig for his wife Anora Mahmudova, even though she cannot legally work in the U.S. She is now happily employed by the UN as a "correspondent" churning out fake "dispatches" such as this for UNICEF. Cozy!

According to the press conference transcript (the video, also online, shows the speaker as Williams), the Payola Pundit gave the following little speech to put his wife's boss at ease:

Since you brought it up, I hope you won’t mind me resurrecting the ghost of the oil-for-food programme again. It’s a ghost that seems to have been haunting very, how should I say, discreetly. The oil-for-food website says that the currently -- $10 billion had been handed over to the Iraq Development Fund. And I saw last week newspaper reports that American military officers were taking $200,000 a month in bribes for disposition of those funds to contractors. And I was wondering, in view of the fact that the international monitoring board that was tasked by the Security Council with examining the disposition of those funds, and the US Government inspector who failed to find out what had happened to them, whether there’s been any recent information on what happened to the $10 billion from the oil-for-food that no one seems to care about.

What has that got to do with the UN? Nothing, of course. The purpose was to give Kofi some moral support, by changing the subject from the unpleasantness broached by Bone by knocking the dastardly United States.

But the long-winded hack wasn't finished -- he concluded his remarks with some standard rump-kissing and a softball "question":
But secondly, last year also, perhaps your biggest achievement that no one also mentioned was the “responsibility to protect” being smuggled through, without the delegates being aware of what they were doing, perhaps. But people are still dying in Darfur. Will you -- do you expect to see, before you finish, any sort of ratification or codification of the responsibility to protect, beyond a vague declaration that we will be nice in future, and put some teeth into it in, for example, Darfur.
Annan was visibly relieved by his pal's performance. Will there be more UN work in store for Williams or the missus?

Williams' disgraceful little riff did not go unnoticed. He says in Maximsnews (in an article that, naturally, says nothing about the Kofi tantrum) that he was "later berated by John Bolton's press officer as an 'apologist for the UN,' as he questioned my journalistic integrity."

Good for him! Still, berating of correspondent-polemicists -- while welcome -- is not enough.

It's time to find out how much the UN has been paying journalists and "consultants" and "media trainers" like Williams over the years -- with exact figures, and names, disclosed in detail. Accuracy in Media asked -- and, according to the AIM stories, was stonewalled by UN flacks.

When a hack makes a fool of himself at a press conference, the people who pay the tab at the UN have a right to know if he is just being a fool -- or if he is bought and paid for.

UPDATE: The IRIS blog has a good wrapup on Bolton's accomplishments so far.
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