Friday, January 20, 2006

Presstitute of the Day: Audry Lewis

Apparently, for Richard Scrushy, former CEO of HealthSouth Corp., she was the best journalist his dirty money could buy. Scrushy played this case like a Mastercard commercial: Down payment on Lewis's work, $11,000; Sympathetic media coverage and other public relations work, $150,000; Acquittal on federal accounting fraud charges, priceless.

Writer Claims HealthSouth CEO Scrushy Bought Favorable Press Coverage During Fraud Trial

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) Throughout the six-month trial that led to Richard Scrushy's acquittal in the $2.7 billion fraud at HealthSouth Corp., a small, influential newspaper consistently printed articles sympathetic to the defense of the
fired CEO.

Audry Lewis, the author of those stories in The Birmingham Times, the city's oldest black-owned paper, now says she was secretly working on behalf of Scrushy, who she says paid her $11,000 through a public relations firm and typically read her articles before publication.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show The Lewis Group wrote a $5,000 check to Audry Lewis on April 29, 2005 -- the day Scrushy hired the company. The head of the company, Times founder Jesse J. Lewis Sr., is not related to Audry Lewis.

The firm wrote another $5,000 check that day to the Rev. Herman Henderson, who employs Audry Lewis at his Believers Temple Church and was among the black preachers supporting Scrushy who were present in the courtroom throughout.

Audry Lewis and Henderson now say Scrushy owes them $150,000 for the newspaper stories and other public relations work, including getting black pastors to attend the trial in a bid to sway the mostly black jury.

The payments raise questions about the legitimacy of the ostensibly grass roots support for Scrushy seen throughout his trial.

Here's another article, with a picture of Lewis: Scrushy Said to Pay for Positive Articles

This article contains this funny quote from an "expert" on "journalism" and "ethics" (all of those are in quotations deliberately: read on)

Kelly McBride, who directs ethics programs of the Poynter Institute, which trains professional journalists, said the payments described by Audry Lewis are "a complete aberration" in American journalism.

McBride said it is so unusual for a reporter to be paid by a news source to write favorable stories that the allegations "are going to be on a lot of people's radar" and will be used as fresh ammunition by critics of the media.

McBride says this is "so unusual" and "a complete aberration" despite the torrent of "pay for play" stories in the papers in the last year. Ah, Kelly McBride, have you ever heard of

Armstrong Williams: Education Dept. paid commentator to promote law

Maggie Gallagher: Writer Backing Bush Plan Had Gotten Federal Contract

Michael McManus: Third columnist caught with hand in the Bush till (; must watch ad to access site)

Mike Vasilinda: Hey, There Is Money to be Made in This Business!

Charles D. Chieppo: It's Pay Day, Pay Day, Pay Day!

And just last month, conservative columnists Doug Bandow and Peter Ferrara: How many conservative columnists did Jack Abramoff rent for his clients?

Guess not.

Audry Lewis, our latest Presstitute of the Day.

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