Watchdog Sues HUD for Communications with Armstrong Williams and Sinclair Broadcast Group

Carson’s Ties to Williams Raise Questions About Sinclair Access and Influence at HUD

Non-partisan ethics watchdog American Oversight today sued the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the release of records related to HUD’s communications with conservative media personality Armstrong Williams and Sinclair Broadcast Group.

“Ben Carson has a troubling habit of blurring the line between government business and personal relationships, and that’s a serious problem when it could give a company like Sinclair even greater access into the Trump administration,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “At the very least, Armstrong Williams was involved in Ben Carson’s attempt to cover up his purchase of the $31,000 dining set, and the public deserves to know what really happened.”

Williams is a close friend of Carson’s and a businessman who acquired seven TV stations with Sinclair’s help. Even though he is not a HUD employee, Williams provided CNN with an official statement from Carson after reports surfaced that the HUD secretary tried to purchase a $31,000 dining set for his office.

Armstrong Williams is not the only figure close to Carson with ties to Sinclair; Carson’s spokesman Raffi Williams (no relation to Armstrong) previously worked for, a Sinclair affiliate.

Sinclair Broadcast Group has garnered heavy criticism after directing anchors at 45 Sinclair-owned stations to deliver identical speeches condemning “fake news.” The scripted announcement was seen by some as part of a broader effort by the media giant, which has a bid to buy Tribune Media pending with the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to favorably influence the Trump administration.

American Oversight’s lawsuit comes after HUD failed to provide records in response to three Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Two of those requests targeted communications between Carson and his staff and Armstrong Williams. The third FOIA request sought communications between Carson and his staff and individuals from Sinclair Broadcast Group or its affiliates.

American Oversight also sent new FOIA requests to HUD and the FCC seeking all communications between the agencies since March 2017, as well as communications between FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s office and Armstrong Williams, employees of companies associated with Williams, including Armstrong Williams Productions, Howard Stirk Holdings, and Graham Williams Group, and Shermichael Singleton.

See the complaint below: