BBG Watch Commentary,
As reported by U.S. and world media, President Trump raised in a tweet the possibility of starting “our own Worldwide Network” to counter news spread internationally by CNN.
….and false way. Something has to be done, including the possibility of the United States starting our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2018
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump While CNN doesn’t do great in the United States based on ratings, outside of the U.S. they have very little competition. Throughout the world, CNN has a powerful voice portraying the United States in an unfair….
and false way. Something has to be done, including the possibility of the United States starting our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT!
Russia’s propaganda outlet RT reacted by posting a commentary titled “Trump proposes state-run network to oppose CNN, forgetting that Voice of America already exists.” Some domestic U.S. media reports made the same observation.
The question is whether Trump knows that the Voice of America (VOA) exists within the dysfunctional United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) still run by Obama administration era appointees: VOA director Amanda Bennett, her deputy Sandy Sugawara and USAGM CEO John F. Lansing? Trump nominated Michael Pack to be the new USAGM CEO but his nomination has not yet been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Pack, an award-winning film documentarian whose work has been featured on PBS, ran such a worldwide television network in the 1980s when he was director of Worldnet television in the old United States Information Agency (USIA). Whether Pack or anybody else had any innput into President Trump’s Twitter comment could not be determined Monday night.
If Trump knows that VOA and USAGM, formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) exist, the next question is whether he considers them to be far to the left and extremely partisan even in comparison to CNN?
When we look at some of the reports and social media posts by VOA reporters which have appeared online in the last two years under the watch of Amanda Bennett, Sandy Sugawara and John Lansing, there can be little doubt that VOA is in fact far to the left of CNN and is practicing advocacy partisan journalism in gross violation of the 1976 U.S. law known as the VOA Charter.
Here are some examples:
During the 2016 election campaign, also under the watch of the current Obama administration leadership, the Voice of America posted online a video subtitled and translated into a foreign language — all at U.S. taxpayers’ expense — in which a Hollywood actor called Donald Trump: “punk,” “dog,” “pig,” “con,” “buls**t artist,” “mutt,” “idiot,” “fool,” “bozo,” and “blatantly stupid.”
There was no balance or a response from Trump or his supporters. VOA did not report that another Hollywood actor, Jon Voight, defended Donald Trump after De Niro likened him to a dog and also said that he wants to punch Trump the face. No VOA reporter or manager involved in the production of this video, which was eventually removed, was placed on administrative leave by the VOA director pending an investigation.
A few VOA reporters also posted on their personal but publicly accessible websites memes showing Trump with a Nazi swastika and as a sex organ. One VOA reporter called Trump “F*ckface Von Clownstick” in a Facebook post.
That’s why when it comes to using the “hate speech” label, VOA newsroom reporters, who are federal government employees whose generous, in some cases six-figure salaries, are paid by U.S. taxpayers and who are required to follow the VOA Charter, owe U.S. taxpayers and their foreign audiences much more than just reporting serious accusations without much balance and no response or context.
Here is some advice and commentary from former Broadcasting Board of Governors international media professionals, one of them a former BBG member, that could also be useful to Ms. Bennett, Ms. Sugawara, and Mr. Lansing.
“‘Balance’ does not necessarily mean finding someone who agrees with Trump. It means describing for VOA’s foreign audiences the political and media atmosphere in the United States over the last two years, the abandoning of balanced reporting, the number of media outlets, including the Voice of America under its current leadership, that jumped on the Hillary Clinton campaign bandwagon, the nastiness of the rhetoric from all the networks, particularly the cable networks, the fact that many of these outlets, including VOA, were pounding it out that Hillary Clinton was going to win in a landslide and not least, the fact that the media won’t take ownership of its role in the process.
This goes a long way to explaining Trump’s visceral dislike of the media. He has plenty of faults, to be sure. The media egged him on.
And he still won, even though on the election night VOA had two ready to go ‘Hillary Wins’ pre-written broadcasts, and none for the possibility of Trump’s win.
Balance is just one of the standards of journalism. They are not journalists — period. Sometimes balance is thrown out there to justify what is in essence a one-sided attack. What a joke. What a horror. What an outrage. “
Some Voice of America Newsroom reporters also showed their lack of objectivity and neutrality by lampooning Donald Trump, his wife, his daughter and the current Counselor to President Trump Kellyanne Conway. During a satirical skit performed at a federal building on government time and streamed live on Facebook, these U.S. government employees even mocked First Lady Melania Trump with sexual content. “And the No. 1 top reason to love America: It’s where a woman who posed naked for a men’s magazine can be First Lady!,” a Voice of America reporter said. These VOA reporters never told similar jokes about former President Obama and his family. BBG CEO John Lansing assured NPR listeners that at the Broadcasting Board of Governors “we have the greatest respect for the President.
Granted, John Lansing did not specifically say which U.S. President.
A video reposted on December 1, 2016 by a Voice of America (VOA) reporter on a personal but publicly accessible Facebook page and still visible as of November 21, 2017, includes such descriptions of President Trump as “f*uck cheeto with hair” and “three cheers for f*cking Trumpy and his neo-Nazi crew.” Another VOA reporter refers to Donald Trump as “F*ckface Von Clownstick” in a Facebook post still remaining online.
WARNING: Some readers may find the content in VOA reporters’ Facebook posts to be obscene or otherwise offensive. If you are offended by such content, do not read or view this post. BBG Watch is reposting some of the Facebook posts, images and videos to document the work of VOA reporters who are U.S. federal government employees. Showing this content does not mean that BBG Watch agrees in any way with these posts by a handful of VOA reporters. Most VOA journalists, especially in VOA language services, do not post such objectionable content.
Reposted by a VOA Reporter on December 1, 2016, as seen online on the VOA reporter’s personal but publicly accessible Facebook page on November 21, 2017
The original video, reposted on the VOA reporter’s Facebook page, was attributed to: Flo & Joan. The VOA reporter did not produce this video. This particular VOA reporter did not specifically identify himself in the “About” section of the Facebook page as working for the Voice of America, but the page’s timeline includes numerous posts of the reporter’s work for the Voice of America and other references to VOA, including the official picture I.D. as a VOA reporter and links to VOA videos and news reports.
Posted by a VOA Reporter on November 14, 2016, as seen online on November 21, 2017
Funniest hashtag seen today: #horrorclown
On November 11, 2016, the same VOA reporter reposted a photo showing a large “F*ck Trump” graffiti and a dog.
A VOA reporter wrote:
Casey [the dog] swears he’s innocent.
Reposted by a VOA Reporter on November 11, 2016, as seen online on November 21, 2017
The VOA reporter wrote:
Casey (the dog) swears he’s innocent. (Note that the original posts were not created by the VOA reporter. They were reposted on a public Facebook page belonging to the VOA reporter.)
[This was a re-posting of another Facebook post originated by someone not associated with VOA.]
In December 2017, BBG Watch had this commentary:
BBG Watch Commentary
Russia’s propaganda media outlet RT was not the only one to fan flames of anti-Americanism over President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA), part of the dysfunctional Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) $740 million (FY 2017) federal agency, was even more brazen in its one-sided, no balance, no U.S. views and no broader context coverage of anti-American and anti-Israel protests in the Middle East. VOA’s coverage was in this case even more one-sided than RT’s propaganda reporting, which was also largely anti-American.
SEE: RT and Voice of America both fanned anti-U.S. flames after Trump’s Jerusalem decision, BBG Watch, December 11, 2017.
Since some Voice of America reporters, editors and executives have been frequently referring to Trump in emails, in daily VOA Newsroom conversations, in memes and social media posts, as a man of “hate and prejudice,” “f*uck cheeto with hair,” “f*cking Trumpy,” and “F*ckface Von Clownstick,” they seem to have no problem posting online one-sided news videos with hate signs not only against Trump but also against the United States, Israel, and American flag — as long as these VOA videos, devoid of any context or a variety of American opinions on the situation in the Middle East, present Trump in the worst possible light.
However, according to BBG CEO John Lansing, who is the boss of VOA director Amanda Bennett, BBG employees “have the greatest respect for whoever is the President,” or at least that is what Lansing told NPR last February.
Both Lansing and Bennett are Obama administration holdovers. Neither had any prior experience in managing federal government workforce or being in charge of U.S. public diplomacy and/or U.S. government information programs.
We are not saying that VOA should not have reported on the widespread protests against President Trump’s decision. VOA should have reported on them, but in each case, whether in VOA reports or in online videos, it should have been done in a serious, balanced and comprehensive manner, as required by the VOA Charter, which is U.S. law. VOA reporters are U.S. government employees.
Some of these senior VOA reporters and editors, not to mention VOA and BBG executives, are drawing six-figure federal salaries. They should obey U.S. law, including the VOA Charter.
Even some of Russia’s RT reports on the reactions to President Trump’s Jerusalem decision, while scoring the usual anti-American propaganda points, had more balance and reflected more of U.S. and Israeli views than many of the Voice of America news videos and reports.
Many of VOA news videos on anti-American and anti-Israel protests in the Middle East last week and over the weekend were completely one-sided. These VOA videos fanning flames of anti-Americanism, as well as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred, were also by far the most popular on Facebook among VOA news videos in the last few days.
We wonder whether this is what VOA director Amanda Bennett and BBG CEO John Lansing call “high impact” of U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America news programs. If this is impact then it is impact in fanning flames of anti-Americanism and hatred with constantly repeated images of torching of U.S. and Israeli flags with no additional context or balance.
Most VOA news content on social media gets hardly any audience engagement. One-sided VOA video, “Protests around the Muslim world over Jerusalem | VOA,” posted last Friday, was showing 928K views, 24K Likes and 28K Shares as of Monday, December 11, 2017, 6:30 PM ET.
Another one-sided VOA video, “Rallies in Pakistan condemning Pres. Trump declaring Jerusalem… | VOA,” posted on Thursday, was showing 700K Views, 18K Likes, and 11K Shares as of Monday, December 11, 2017, 6:30 PM ET.
These VOA videos showing burning of American and Israeli flags and demonstrators shouting death to America and to Israel are extremely popular among of VOA’s international audiences. A VOA news report posted a week ago, “Pope meets Rohingya refugees in Dhaka | VOA” that actually dealt with true violations of human rights and freedom, which VOA should be focusing on as part of the BBG’s core mission, was showing only 74K Views, 2K Likes and 254 Shares as of Monday.
It seems that at least some VOA and BBG reporters and officials have discovered that anti-American and anti-Israeli hatred is a powerful click bait worth discarding the VOA Charter (U.S. Public Law 94-350) which mandates among other things that:
VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.
VOA will represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.
VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.
We would not be at all surprised if the Broadcasting Board of Governors used additional U.S. taxpayer dollars to boost the viewership of these anti-American Voice of America videos with paid Facebook ads.