behind the news

Karen Ryan Redux

October 11, 2004

Earlier this year, the Bush administration was caught using video news releases touting the government’s Medicare drug benefit that were designed to look like complete news stories. The videos, which featured a PR executive, Karen Ryan, posing as a reporter, ran as news segments on about 50 local TV stations. Campaign Desk quickly revealed that Ryan had starred in numerous similar productions, pushing products like Excedrin and “a new ear infection treatment called Ciprodex.”

Today, the Associated Press reports that the Medicare bill wasn’t the only controversial piece of legislation that the Bush administration turned to Ryan to help sell. She also appeared in a video news release last year that sang the praises of the No Child Left Behind Act, and, as with the Medicare video, closed with the words, “I’m Karen Ryan, reporting from Washington.”

When news of the Medicare video broke in March, Campaign Desk brought you a preliminary list of local TV stations that ran government propaganda as news. This time around, there appear to have been fewer takers, but the following four stations got suckered:

KRIV-TV (Houston, Texas)
WTTG-TV (Washington, D.C.)
XETV-TV (San Diego, Calif.)
WLFL-TV (Raleigh, N.C.)

The first three are Fox affiliates. WLFL is part of the WB network.

If readers remember seeing the segment on their local news, send us an email to let us know. We can at least ensure that when news outlets are dumb or lazy enough to go along with the effort to pass off propaganda as news, everyone finds out.

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Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.