BBG – USAGM Watch Commentary
His selection as the Press Freedom Editor was praised and announced to the staff on April 1, 2019 by the Voice of America (VOA) director Amanda Bennett, but, according to reports in The Dailly Caller, for years a well-paid U.S. government employee of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), previously known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) openly littered his personal but public Facebook page with highly partisan and in many cases insulting political posts and memes.
While the obscene posts, which included f-words, were reserved for Donald Trump, some, which appear to have been posted about the time of the 2016 political conventions were also directed at Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the Republican Party.
One Facebook post appeared to be critical of Senator Bernie Sanders and his supporters, presumably because the VOA reporter was also showing a preference for a different Democratic Party politician.
One post may have been directed at former Congressman Paul Ryan who served as the speaker of the United States House of Representatives from October 2015 to January 2019. He was also the 2012 vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party, running unsuccessfully alongside Mitt Romney. The Facebook post by Doug Johnson dated August 18, 2016 said: “How long before #LyingRyan trends?.” On February 13,2016, Doug Johnson re-posted on Facebook a HuffingtonPost.com article titled, “Why Ted Cruz’s Facial Expression Makes Me Uneasy.” Also on February 13, 2016, Doug Johnson had a Facebook post in which he wrote, “HOLY SHIT. SCALIA DEAD. NOT KIDDING.”
(Some screenshots were edited by BBG – USAGM Watch to obscure obscene words.)
According to The Daily Caller, both Amanda Bennett and her boss, USAGM CEO John F. Lansing, were warned months ago about many of these Facebook posts, which appear to be in a gross violation of VOA’s own policies for social media use by employees, but they took no action stop his Facebook activities. For several months, USAGM ignored a media request for a confirmation of the identity of the employee and for comment. His Facebook page disappeared only after a Daily Caller reporter persisted in pressing USAGM Public Relations office for answers. Both Bennett and Lansing were appointed to their government position during the Obama administration. Under their watch, some VOA reporters and editors openly expressed their strong partisan political preferences.
In May 2019, the Voice of America (VOA) had ignored on its main VOA News English website a powerful pro-press freedom speech delivered in Washington, DC by Sen. Ted Cruz at a World Press Freedom Day event co-sponsored by VOA’s dysfunctional parent federal agency, the U.S. Agency for Global Media. It is not known whether Amanda Bennett or the VOA Press Freedom Editor were involved in any decisions regarding coverage of Sen. Cruz’s speech by VOA. USAGM posted a video of his speech on its government website.
Prior to the Facebook page controversy being exposed by The Daily Caller, in comments to The Daily Caller, Doug Bernard Johnson, identified by his shortened radio and TV name as Voice of America Press Freedom Editor Doug Bernard, explained why U.S. tax-funded media outlet, which is U.S. government-run and funded by U.S. taxpayers, did not cover under his watch the violent left-wing Antifa attack on conservative journalist Andy Ngo which happened earlier in Portland, Oregon.
VOA Press Freedom Editor Doug Bernard Quoted by The Daily Caller: “‘I’m familiar with the story; uncertain if or how we might approach it. Sort of lost the ‘news’ angle with time,’ Doug Bernard, VOA press freedom editor, told the Daily Caller News Foundation when asked if a statement had been released on the attack.
‘Hands more than full today with new report targeting dozens of Turkish journalists and groups, including BBC and VOA,’ Bernard continued. He did not respond to further questions asking to clarify why no report was issued on Ngo’s assault.”
Organizations For Journalists Not Reporting On The Attack On Andy Ngo After A Week By Shelby Talcott, The Daily Caller, July 8, 2019
Doug Bernard who was quoted by The Daily Caller as saying that he is uncertain “if or how we might approach” the beating of U.S. journalist Andy Ngo story, had received generous praise from VOA Director Amanda Bennett at the time of his appointment as VOA Press Freedom Editor earlier this year. In an email sent to staff on April 1, 2019, Ms. Bennett wrote: “You all know how important our new Press Freedom initiative is to VOA — so I am pleased to announce that Doug Bernard has been appointed VOA’s new Press Freedom Editor.”
In this April 1, 2019 e-mail, shared with BBG – USAGM Watch by VOA employees, VOA director Amanda Bennett had announced her nomination of the VOA Press Freedom Editor. She had expressed her approval and praise for the VOA employee whom the Daily Caller article named as likely being involved in a partisan bias controversy on social media.
From: Amanda Bennett
Sent: Monday, April 1, 2019 3:14 PM
To: VOA Notices; USAGM Networks; USAGM House Announcements
Subject: Press Freedom Editor
You all know how important our new Press Freedom initiative is to VOA — so I am pleased to announce that Doug Bernard has been appointed VOA’s new Press Freedom Editor.
Doug has been with the agency since 2002, serving in a variety of multimedia jobs. He currently is editor, host and producer for English to Asia programs including “VOA Asia” and previously launched VOA’s cyber issues reporting and “Digital Frontiers” blog. He’s also held high-profile posts as lead TV English anchor and the Washington host for “The World Today.”
As Press Freedom Editor, Doug will be working as a mega bridge editor, working with journalists in all the divisions and services to identify, develop and highlight press freedom stories. Doug will curate an agency-wide English web page featuring all VOA Press Freedom stories, weekly profiles of journalists under fire and a live social media feed. Target launch date International Press Freedom Day, May 3. He will be working closely with Tom Detzel, our investigations editor, who is in charge of the overall project, and with Yolanda Lopez, the head of Central News.
This week and next, Doug and Tom will be dropping in on morning division news meetings to say hello, take your questions and gather intel. VOA journalists already do a tremendous job covering press freedom stories around the world; we want to be sure as much of that coverage is flagged and versioned into English for our new page, so please alert Doug whenever you have a press freedom story on deck.
Please congratulate Doug and think about ways you can work with him to advance this hugely important project.