Activist Messaging from VOA Director


Bureaucracy Warning Sign


US Government International Media: Information War Lost

By The Federalist

A recent BBG Watch report noted a February 27, 2018 post to Voice of America (VOA) director Amanda Bennett’s Facebook page which read:

“As the Trump Administration escalates raids in Los Angeles, immigrant communities remain afraid but determined to know what they can do to prepare themselves for the worst. Voice of America – VOA’s Mike O’Sullivan explains.”

Here is a link to the O’Sullivan piece:

Crackdown Sparks Fear in LA Immigrant Communities

A variety of comments have been posted to the O’Sullivan piece. We make note of a comment made by “Alex” on February 26, 2018:

“Why does VOA continue to NOT explain the difference between legal immigrants and ILLEGAL immigrants? This is activism, not journalism.”

Digest this for a moment while going back to the Amanda Bennett Facebook post.

Ms. Bennett is an Obama administration holdover. Unlike any other director before, who did not comment in public on domestic U.S. political issues dividing Americans along party lines, such as abortion, death penalty, or gun control, Amanda Bennett does not hide from VOA employees or anybody else her private views or her private activism on behalf of a controversial and largely partisan political cause. Her official bio on the VOA website says:

Together with her husband, Donald Graham, she [Amanda Bennett] was a co-founder of TheDream.US, which provides college scholarships to the children of undocumented immigrants.

Amanda Bennett also does not hide her private political views on other domestic political issues, as in this Facebook post, subsequently removed, in which she seemed to object to the U.S. government order issued to Russia’s propaganda channels RT and Sputnik to register as “foreign agents” in the United States—a move taken by the Trump administration and supported by many Democrats.

VOA Director Amanda Bennett’s Facebook post (subsequently removed) on RT registration as “foreign agent.”

There are different ways one can perceive Bennett’s Facebook posts. One of them could be a gesture of sorts to the so-called “resistance” to the Trump administration. BBG Watch has reported numerous instances in which the agency does less of reporting and more of crossing the line into anti-Trump advocacy, before and after Mr. Trump was elected. VOA newsroom staffers brazenly mocked Trump during a December 2016 holiday gathering – something that would never and did never happen during the Obama presidency, or before Amanda Bennett became VOA director. In an email sent to staff in July 2016, Ms. Bennett quoted an illegal immigrant describing Donald Trump’s immigration plan as representing “hate and prejudice.” She did not note any countervailing views in the VOA Spanish Service interview. There were none.

Indeed, there has been enough of this sort of thing to call out the White House and emphasize the need to replace Ms. Bennett and John Lansing (the BBG’s holdover CEO), even if it means making interim appointments (and NOT one of “usual suspects” among the agency’s senior officials who are equally as much of the problem if not more so).

The last thing any administration needs is an agency behaving in the manner of a cheerleader for partisan, advocacy politics for either of the major US political parties. The agency has a very specific mission as codified in the VOA Charter. Under Lansing and Bennett, the agency is everything other than being on message and on mission as the Charter calls for.

Obama-era holdovers (members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors [BBG], Lansing and Bennett) and the senior agency officials who have been running the agency into the ground for years relish being a very low priority for the Trump White House allowing them to indulge in rogue activity arrogant and defiant to the hilt.

In contrast to the behavior exhibited within the agency there is the view that the national and public interest must be better served by eliminating the agency in its current set-up, reconstituting it or transferring its mission functions to another agency where it can be properly supervised, held to the highest standards and be made accountable. Allowing the agency to continue spinning willy-nilly out of control as part of its “business as usual” culture, with its lack of accountability, is not a good thing. It is a drain on public funding and it has to be corrected or stopped entirely.

This brings us back to the O’Sullivan piece.

The subject of immigration in the United States is complex. The complexity is fueled by news media and even more by social media. As a result the issue is volatile, polarized and politicized.

The O’Sullivan piece adds to the mix by using one very highly-charged word:


In our view, the piece is not balanced. It does not come remotely close to balance which a complex issue of this nature requires. It can’t be balanced if activism is an intended outcome.

What is also part of the discussion, though rarely heard in the media, are the following:

➢ Legal immigration brings into the United States over 1-MILLION individuals annually. Information searches on Google put all legal immigrants in the United States at their highest level ever: 37-MILLION.

➢ The organization Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates that there are 12.5-MILLION illegal immigrants in the United States.

➢ The cost to American taxpayers for illegal immigrants is well into the BILLIONS of dollars.

In short, unregulated or illegal immigration poses a very serious problem for the United States. It strains US infrastructure to provide for these individuals as well as the legal American population, including costs for education, housing and medical resources to name just three.

Further, it puts additional pressure on law enforcement, the judicial and penal systems when some of these individuals commit crimes requiring and trial and incarceration.

To outward appearances, some would argue the Obama era approach to illegal immigration has allowed emotion to dispense with reason in dealing with the subject, including the nonsensical matter of so-called “sanctuary cities,” which by the way, some states and municipalities seem to expect the Federal Government to subsidize for the financial costs it places on them. This concept of “sanctuary cities” has made them safe havens for some individuals to commit crimes and blend in with the general illegal immigrant community.

If Mr. O’Sullivan or Ms. Bennett wants to talk about fear, they should be talking about the criminal gangs that terrorize illegal immigrants inside the United States.

However, these crucial elements are barely touched upon in any detail by this report if at all.

Nor is there a comparison or mention of the problem European countries have experienced with immigration issues, both legal and illegal.

In its effect, the illegal immigration issue is a refugee issue for the United States as many of those coming into the country illegally are running from economic deprivation and political or criminal violence in their native countries. In short, the United States is bearing the burden of problems generated elsewhere with Americans and their government lacking effective control of the refugee flow into the country. The vast majority of governments in today’s world do not tolerate anything even approaching such uncontrolled refugee immigration.

The United States represents the last and often desperately perilous attempt to escape these conditions particularly in parts of Latin America. Dealing with the magnitude of the problem requires a reasoned and regulated approach. Putting emotions ahead of reason makes for bad policy. The VOA story comes down on the emotional side of the issue.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

This brings us back to the comment left by “Alex” to the O’Sullivan piece:

“Why does VOA continue to NOT explain the difference between legal immigrants and ILLEGAL immigrants? This is activism, not journalism.”

Herein lays the big problem for the VOA of today.

Actually there are two problems: the matter of continuing to portray issues with a built-in bias and the matter of activism encouraged by the VOA director, not journalism.

Like the US commercial news media, there is the appearance if not the fact that individuals within VOA (including the VOA director with her Facebook post) have embraced activism and advocacy. In either case, neither is doing much for a sensible discussion and approach to this and other subjects. It is bad enough when US media does this with domestic American audiences. It is worse when VOA does it with a global audience.

If our sense of things is correct, a post to Facebook like that of the VOA director makes activism and advocacy appear an acceptable standard of performance within the agency.

It is also spreading a perception of fear which makes dealing with this issue even more problematic, potentially causing individuals to take precipitous action.

This agency is in a very bad place. It has been in this very bad place for a long time. It does not have the capacity or the desire to take itself out of this bad place.

The White House needs to move demonstrably to put this agency on a sound footing and that starts with a process to replace holdover appointments from the Obama administration and administrative action to address the dysfunction among its senior bureaucrats.

The Federalist
March 2018

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