Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chairman Kenneth Weinstein opened the BBG board meeting on June 6, 2018 by welcoming Heather Nauert, acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, to her first BBG open meeting as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s representative on the board.
Acting Under Secretary Heather Nauert called for more collaboration while stressing respect for firewalls between the Broadcasting Board of Governos and the State Department.
HEATHER NAUERT: So I just wanted to illustrate sort of, our overall, the importance that we put on our cooperation at the State Department with all of you, the importance of the collaboration that we have together. I think it’s already been strong. I know to the Secretary it’s very important to him that that continue we have the global engagement center at the State Department where we’re working to combat state-sponsored disinformation. We have at least one detailee over at the State Department right now. We’re hoping to get some more so hope to have your support in in doing that.
But we also recognize the importance of firewalls and respect that, so look forward to adhering to that and having more collaboration with communication in the future.
Heather Nauert has been acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and Spokesperson for the United States Department of State since March 13, 2018 and April 24, 2017, respectively. She is a former ABC News correspondent and Fox News host.
“Nauert expressed her support to the Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Service journalists whose families are being held in reeducation camps and her sympathies to those affected by the bomb blast in Kabul that killed three Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalists,” a BBG press release said.
In her remarks, Heather Nauert praised BBG journalists for their dedication and hard and dangerous work.
In recent years, BBG employees have given extremely low ratings to BBG and Voice of America (VOA) senior leaders in annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Surveys (FEVS) conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The BBG has stayed at the bottom ranking of the employee morale survey for many years.
In a major controversy last year, VOA’s senior management has placed on forced leave with pay five VOA Mandarin Service journalists. The VOA management threatens two of them with firing.
Several award-winning, talented and young Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalists, most of them women, have left in frustration or have been pushed out. They have criticized senior management.
Many pro-democracy Iranians banned in recent years by Broadcasting Board of Governors-managed Voice of America’s (Persian Service and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s Radio Farda because of their outspoken opposition to the Iranian regime.
The BBG is still managed by holdover Obama Administration officials, BBG CEO John Lansing, VOA Director Amanda Bennett and VOA Deputy Director Sandy Sugawara, and a team of longtime executives. One of them, BBG Deputy Director Jeffrey Trimble, who has announced his retirement, was presented at the BBG meeting with a career achievement award and received praise.
BBG CHAIR KEN WEINSTEIN: Heather was appointed to her acting Under Secretary role in March and as such she represents Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on our board. The board has traditionally benefited from a strong partnership with the State Department and those of us who have interacted with Heather know that she has been already extraordinarily helpful to us during her short tenure. I’d like to welcome Heather and ask her to make a few remarks.
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HEATHER NAUERT: Thank you so much for having me here today.
First I’d like to say I’m honored to represent Secretary Pompeo here with all of you today. Many of the faces here around the table I know and, having done some work in the capacity as the acting Under Secretary but also as a spokesperson for the State Department, I’d like to say that I’m also honored to have had the opportunity to work with so many VOA, Radio Free Europe and [Radio Free] Asia’s journalists.
Not long ago we had seven Uyghur journalists who report for Radio Free Asia in the State Department to hear about their families’ experiences. Many of their family members had been imprisoned by the government. I was tremendously proud to have been able to meet with them and then be able to highlight what they represent and the hard work that they do just to do their jobs every single day in our State Department briefing. We have followed closely the situation that has gone on in Cambodia where it has become very very difficult for you all to do your jobs, for people to do their jobs.
And also we want to note the loss of life in Kabul Afghanistan with the brave journalists there.
Secretary Pompeo, if I may just add this, his first foreign interview was with VOA Persia and that was something that he selected to do because he specifically wanted to speak to the Iranian people.
So I just wanted to illustrate sort of, our overall, the importance that we put on our cooperation at the State Department with all of you, the importance of the collaboration that we have together. I think it’s already been strong. I know to the Secretary it’s very important to him that that continue we have the global engagement center at the State Department where we’re working to combat state-sponsored disinformation. We have at least one detailee over at the State Department right now. We’re hoping to get some more so hope to have your support in in doing that.
But we also recognize the importance of firewalls and respect that, so look forward to adhering to that and having more collaboration with communication in the future. Thank you for having me.
BBG CHAIR KEN WEINSTEIN: Thank you very much acting Under Secretary. I know all of us were deeply moved to see the attention that you gave to our Uyghur journalists in that press conference. It meant a huge amount up to all of us around the table and to our colleagues in the field who go through trials and tribulations as you know. And so thank you for your active engagement. We also thank Secretary of State Pompeo, as well.
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HEATHER NAUERT: One of my best days on the job if I could say that to be able to highlight that and understanding what that platform means and how strong that can be in helping people. Thank you.