BBG – USAGM Commentary
In comments to The Daily Caller, Doug Bernard, identified as Voice of America Press Freedom Editor, explained why U.S. tax-funded media outlet, which is managed by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) 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 in Portland, Oregon several days ago. Doug Bernard, who has been with the agency, previously known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), since 2002, was appointed several months ago to his press freedom reporting and editing job by VOA Director Amanda Bennett who previously praised his work as a reporter. The Daily Caller reporter pointed out that multiple other news organizations “have reported on the violence against Ngo, including Fox News, CNN, The Hill and more.” “2020 Democratic candidates Andrew Yang and former Vice President Joe Biden condemned the violence against Ngo. Eric Swalwell, who announced his departure from the race Monday, also condemned the attack,” the article said. The Voice of America and the U.S. Agency for Global Media did not initiate coverage of the incident.
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.”
The Voice of America central news division did not cover the Andy Ngo story on its main English-language website. Now VOA’s Doug Bernard says that he was “uncertain if” the violent attack on a U.S. journalist by a radical left-wing group deserved coverage from the Voice of America. VOA regularly reports on right-wing-inspired violence in the United States and has reported repeatedly charges that President Trump’s criticism of “fake media” inspires violence toward journalists, as well as comparisons of Trump’s criticism of “fake media” to suppression of the press by Lenin, Stalin, and Mao.
Amanda Bennett and USAGM CEO John F. Lansing, both appointed during the Obama administration, were informed on July 3, 2019 by a former VOA and BBG manager that the Voice of America was not covering the Antifa attack on journalist Andy Ngo story and generally ignoring mainstream conservative Americans and their organizations. They did not respond to the e-mail and did not initiate coverage.
Under Bennett’s and Lansing’s watch, several VOA journalists were posting multiple anti-Trump social media posts and memes, some of them of obscene nature. These postings continued for many months even after Bennett issued a weak warning that they should stop. The same VOA reporters did not post any anti-Antifa or anti-left-wing content on their social media accounts, some of them clearly linked to their VOA work, or posted any substantial criticism of liberal groups. VOA quoting and reporting on liberal advocacy groups has been vastly greater under Bennett’s watch than quoting and reporting on mainstream conservative advocacy groups even though the VOA Charter, which is U.S. law, requires a balanced presentation of American viewpoints.
Earlier this year, USAGM refused to answer a media media inquiry whether VOA journalists responsible for reporting on press freedom issues are severely biased. One such inquiry, which received no answer, was sent to both Bennett and John Lansing on April 3, 2019 when obscene anti-Trump posts apparently uploaded by and linked to a VOA reporter were still seen on social media. Most such posts by other VOA reporters were by then removed by them after remaining online for many months and in some cases for over two years.
In an e-mail to Bennett sent last week, a former VOA journalist pointed out that responsible mainstream conservative groups and individuals have practically no voice on the Voice of America while American Communist Angela Davis does.
Searches of the VOA News site for “Candace Owens” and for “Angela Davis,” or for “Robert DeNiro” and “James Woods,” show that VOA rarely quotes or mentions conservative American voices among political or entertainment celebrity figures. Bennett and Lansing did not respond to an e-mail inquiry about non-coverage by VOA of the Antifa attack on journalist Andy Ngo story. A search of the VOA English News website showed only one report about U.S. actor James Woods who became known for expressing his conservative views. The VOA report only referred to his film career. At the same time, VOA News had dozens of reports about another U.S. actor Robert DeNiro who is known for his liberal views and severe criticism of President Trump. In 2016, a VOA foreign language service posted without any balance a Robert DeNiro partisan political campaign video in which he called Trump “dog,” “pig” and similar names. Versioned in a foreign language, the VOA video could have targeted ethnic American voters. It included audio in English. The VOA video was eventually removed but without any apology or explanation from either VOA director Bennett or USAGM CEO Lansing. VOA and another USAGM media entity under Mr. Lansing’s watch, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), were accused in a New York Times report and by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) shortly before his retirement as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee of illegally targeting Americans with Facebook ads.
USAGM CEO John Lansing has been reeling from numerous scandals under his watch, including the theft of tens of thousands of dollars by his ex-right-hand man at the agency, Dr. Haroon Ullah, whom Lansing had hired in 2017 and promoted as his spokesman on programming strategy. There are also new reports of a fake news video allegedly used by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) under the watch of the OCB director selected by Lansing. Bennett was also selected by Lansing to her VOA director’s position. Her appointment was in 2016. Lansing has been USAGM CEO since 2015.