BBG Watch Commentary
A news report on the U.S. taxpayer-funded ($221 million FY 2017) Voice of America (VOA) website, which received high praise from VOA director Amanda Bennett, hinted for international audiences that President Donald Trump may be “mentally unstable.”
The hint of Trump’s alleged “mental instability” to VOA’s international audiences, who may not fully understand the bitterness and exaggerations of partisan debates in the United States, was presented in a question from a VOA correspondent.
“Or are we seeing a mentally unstable and increasingly unpopular former reality TV personality lashing out at media critics with vicious, vulgar tweets in a desperate attempt to divert attention from his collapsing presidency?” MORE
Amanda Bennett was appointed VOA director during the Obama presidency and is still in charge of the federal government’s media outlet for international audiences. Her immediate boss is Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John F. Lansing who was also appointed to his position during the Obama administration.
The VOA report did not provide any definite proof for international audiences that President Trump is clinically “mentally unstable,” or that his presidency is “collapsing.”
“Is the United States witnessing a titanic struggle in which a populist president fights back against a concerted media onslaught waged by liberal-dominated news industry giants supported by wealthy coastal elites?
Or are we seeing a mentally unstable and increasingly unpopular former reality TV personality lashing out at media critics with vicious, vulgar tweets in a desperate attempt to divert attention from his collapsing presidency?”
Another recent VOA news report quoted in its concluding paragraph conservative political commentator Bill Kristol as suggesting that like ancient Rome, the United States may soon fall under President Trump. The VOA report did not mention that although Kristol is a conservative, he has been also a longtime bitter critic of Donald Trump.
“Well-known conservative political commentator Bill Kristol, editor-at-large of The Weekly Standard, also took to Twitter Sunday to discuss the controversy over the president’s use of Twitter.
Kristol compared the United States role in the world since Trump was sworn in as president on January 20 to the fall of the Roman Empire, and to the behavior of the leaders in ancient Rome: ‘The speed with which we’re recapitulating the decline and fall of Rome is impressive. What took Rome centuries we’re accomplishing in months.'”
Many critics of the BBG and VOA management, including some current and former VOA journalists, say that while reasonable accusations against President Trump must be fully reported by the Voice of America, it should be done in strict accordance with the VOA Charter. The legal document approved by Congress and signed by President Ford in 1976 requires VOA to report news in a highly balanced and unbiased way and present its content in such a way for international audiences that they don’t perceive exaggerated partisan attacks as established facts that could lead foreigners to make serious miscalculations about the United States, its political system and its leaders.
During the 2016 presidential election campaign, under the watch of John Lansing and Amanda Bennett, a VOA foreign language video showed a Hollywood actor calling Trump “Pig,” “Dog” and other similarly insulting names. The video, which was subsequently removed in response to criticism, was posted without VOA providing any balance, context or a response, as required by the VOA Charter. A few VOA reporters themselves called Trump insulting names in a public meeting and in a few personal but publicly visible Facebook posts. As one critic of the BBG and VOA management observed, such media attacks can make any person respond harshly, which does not make them necessarily “mentally unstable.”