Could a foreign power such as Russia try to infiltrate the Voice of America (VOA) or influence its executives, broadcasters and programs? Could U.S. government-hired journalists and program contributors, acting on their own, support in VOA broadcasts accommodation with authoritarian rulers in countries such as China, Cuba, Iran or even North Korea? Could one-sided propaganda produced by federal employees, which fails to project an objective and balanced view of the United States or news developments abroad, be distributed domestically to unsuspecting Americans?
It all happened with regard to Russia during World War II, mostly because President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed managers, and the agency in charge of Voice of America broadcasts hired journalists, who while with a few exceptions not actual Soviet agents, were highly sympathetic to the Soviet Union and supportive of communist ideology and propaganda.
One of the earliest warnings of Soviet propaganda influence within the Office of War Information (O. W. I.), where radio broadcasts for foreign audiences which only later became known as the Voice of America originated during the war, was a Republican U.S. Senator from Ohio, Robert A. Taft.
In a speech on the Senate floor on April 19, 1943, Senator Taft warned of “ugly rumors abroad” that much of American “short-wave broadcasting is futile and idiotic, and very inferior to that of other nations.”
READ MORE: Senator Taft’s early warning of Soviet propaganda in WWII Voice of America, Cold War Radio Museum, April 2, 2018.