BBG Watch Commentary Question
Did the Voice of America (VOA) under the directorship of Pulitzer-winning journalist Amanda Bennett, an Obama administration holdover appointee, comply with the VOA Charter and VOA Journalistic Code in how VOA News first reported on BuzzFeed News report about what turned out to be unproven allegation that “U.S. President Donald Trump “directed his attorney to lie to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow,” which were later disputed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller?
We are not suggesting that VOA should have ignored BuzzFeed News report. It should have reported on it because due to loose journalistic standards it became national news in the United States despite the fact that the BuzzFeed News report turned out to be inaccurate–a strong possibility that should have been anticipated by any good reporter.
Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said later that “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony, are not accurate.”
Did VOA in its initial report raise all the necessary questions about the possible inaccuracy and bias in the BuzzFeed News report in order to give its foreign and increasing domestic audience a balanced and fair view of American politics?
Did VOA contribute to partisanship in the United States and confusion abroad by reporting on the story that was inaccurate without providing a proper context, explanations and disclaimers?
What we are asking is whether VOA properly presented in its original report the allegations as unproven and coming from sources with a known bias, as well as a record of inaccurate reporting and making false allegations?
As you may recall, VOA Director Amanda Bennett, whose husband is reported to be doing major business in China, had five VOA Mandarin Service journalists suspended with pay and investigated over their interview with Chinese whistleblower Guo Wengui in April 2017, in which the businessman made allegations of illegal activities by Chinese Communist Party officials, to which the Chinese government did not respond directly but merely launched an attack on Mr. Guo. Ms. Bennett said that VOA Mandarin Service journalists did not follow the best journalistic practices. VOA Mandarin Service journalists strongly disputed these charges. Since then one VOA Mandarin Service journalist was fired over the Gun Wengui interview but is still fighting her dismissal.
Did VOA attempt to contact the White House and the Office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller before posting its initial report on the BuzzFeed News story?
Did VOA had a second source besides BuzzFeed News to substantiate the allegations made against President Trump? The VOA Journalistic Code requires two sources and has special strict provisions for using only one-source reports. If VOA did not have a second source, should VOA have made it clear that the report on allegations was coming from one source only with a previous record of inaccurate reporting?
Did VOA follow the same standards in reporting on the BuzzFeed News story about President Donald Trump as Amanda Bennett wanted to use for the Chinese communist officials, or the standards that VOA has been using in reporting on Iran regime officials? Anti-communist Chinese and anti-regime Iranians have posted thousands of social media comments accusing VOA of bias under the directorship of Amanda Bennett.
A report commissioned by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), confirmed charges that VOA was repeating Iranian regime propaganda and engaging in one-sided, biased reporting. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Radio Farda was accused of doing the same thing.
Like Ms. Bennett, her boss, USAGM CEO John Lansing, is also an Obama administration holdover appointee. Could some of VOA newsroom reporters who under the watch of Amanda Bennett and John Lansing have posted multiple public social media comments and memes with insults, including use of f-words, directed at Donald Trump, and streamed a sex joke about his wife, be able to avoid bias in their reporting on his presidency for VOA? Even after John Lansing told NPR that the agency has the highest respect for the President of the United States, insulting social media posts and memes uploaded by a few VOA reporters remained online for many months.
Was VOA in the case of the BuzzFeed News story repeating partisan propaganda without properly identifying it as such?
Once again, we are not saying that VOA should not have reported on the BuzzFeed News report when it did, but did VOA follow all the right journalistic practices and standards? Did the VOA report comply with the VOA Charter?
Here is the full text of the VOA report as it was posted on the VOA News website on January 18, 2019.
What do Amanda Bennett and John Lansing think about this report?
Should they apologize to VOA audiences for VOA posting a report that turned out to be inaccurate?
Is posting inaccurate reports by VOA about the President of the United States and other high-level U.S. officials acceptable because other U.S. media outlets also post such inaccurate reports?
Did VOA properly explain to a foreign audience that the United States is torn apart by a lot of highly partisan so-called “news” reporting with generous use of exaggerated or even completely fake allegations being made by both political sides?
Does VOA Charter hold the taxpayer-funded Voice of America to different, higher standards of accuracy, balance and comprehensiveness than those followed commercial U.S. media? We think it does.
Why would all U.S. taxpayers–Democrats, Republicans, and Independents–want to pay from for a U.S. government-managed media outlet that engages in biased reporting?
We don’t think they would want to tolerate it, whether the biased reporting is against Donald Trump or against Senator Bernie Sanders whose supporters also accused VOA of “state media bias” and character assassination during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
Our final question is when John Lansing and Amanda Bennett will leave their positions and what the new USAGM CEO when he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate can do to ensure that the Voice of America and the entire agency will stay above partisan politics?
VOICE OF AMERICA REPORT
President Donald Trump speaks at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 100th Annual Convention, Jan. 14, 2019, in New Orleans.
U.S. President Donald Trump is reported to have directed his attorney to lie to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
The late Thursday account on BuzzFeed News said two anonymous federal law enforcement officials were the sources for the report about the president and his former lawyer Michael Cohen.
The sources say Cohen told special counsel Robert Mueller that the president told him to lie to Congress about Trump’s dealings with Russia.
BuzzFeed says the anonymous officials are also “involved in an investigation of the matter.”
According to the BuzzFeed account, Trump and two of his children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., “received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.”
At the same time Cohen was providing the Trumps with news about the negotiations with Russia, Trump was engaged in his successful presidential election and denying that he had any business deals with Russia.
“The allegation that the president of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business deals with Russia is among the most serious to date” Representative Adam Schiff of California said via Twitter. “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”
Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas posted on Twitter that if the BuzzFeed story is true, then Trump “must resign or be impeached.”
BuzzFeed says it learned about Trump’s effort to have Cohen lie to Congress “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”
Giuliani on collusion
Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers, has acknowledged that some officials with Trump’s 2016 campaign may have colluded with Russia to help him win, but says that Trump himself did not.
“I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or between people in the campaign,” Giuliani, a former New York mayor, told CNN late Wednesday.
“I said the president of the United States,” he added. “There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspiring with the Russians to hack” the opposition Democratic National Committee.
On Thursday, Giuliani sought to clarify his remarks, saying, “I represent only President Trump not the Trump campaign. There was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form. Likewise, I have no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign.”
Giuliani’s comments during the CNN interview about Trump campaign involvement with Moscow were sharply at odds with what Trump himself has tweeted at least 13 times, that his successful campaign for the White House did not collude with Russia.
Most recently, last month, Trump said on Twitter:
“Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony. No Smocking Gun…No Collusion.” @FoxNews That’s because there was NO COLLUSION. So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution,…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2018
Russia has rejected the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Moscow’s agents meddled in the election to help Trump win, although President Vladimir Putin acknowledged at last July’s Helsinki summit with Trump that he wanted the then-real estate mogul to defeat his Democratic challenger, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors have been investigating Trump campaign links to Russia for 20 months and also whether Trump, as president, obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.
END OF VOICE OF AMERICA REPORT