By The Federalist

In the latest U.S Agency for Global Media (USAGM) dust up, the VOA White House bureau chief, Steve Herman, has come under scrutiny by agency officials to determine if he is in compliance with the agency’s various directives for maintaining journalistic standards, including fair and objective reporting.

Right away, left-leaning outlets in “mainstream media” rushed to Herman’s defense as part of the Left’s ongoing campaign against President Donald Trump and the Trump administration, including Trump appointee Michael Pack, the agency’s chief executive officer.

We choose to dispense with this Leftist clap trap and look at the situation based on whether or not there are incidents which warrant further attention.

We also choose not to put Herman on a pedestal as a martyr for “journalism.” BBG – USAGM Watch reported that in 2017 Steve Herman had imposed his own a ban on our website and our reporters who followed his Twitter account after BBG – USAGM Watch criticized him for tweeting unconfirmed news claims, some of which turned out to be false. BBG – USAGM Watch urged him to obey the two-source rule and to follow the VOA Charter which says that VOA News must be accurate, balanced and comprehensive. Herman was forced to lift the ban after BBG – USAGM Watch complained to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), as the U.S. Agency for Global Media which oversees VOA was then called, that such an action initiated by a U.S. federal government employee amounted to interference with a free media. 

Journalism has been replaced both on the left and on the right by agitation and advocacy. The days of journalism as practiced by Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Harry Reasoner, and Edward R. Murrow and others are over. We are now in the era of “confirmation bias,” in which people tend to lean toward media personalities whose views are reflective of our own.

Let’s remember who Herman works for: an agency of the United States Government. That makes Herman a Federal employee. It also makes him a state broadcaster, another consideration.

We are not saying that reporting on the doings of President Trump is easy. Far from it. But it also makes it doubly important to maintain balance and objectivity.

By all appearances, mainstream media have abandoned all pretense of balance and objectivity. Left-leaning media seem to be still much awash in deep psychosis of having backed the wrong candidate in the 2016 national election. 

Four years now into bashing Trump on the Left and defending him by the Right, major media are becoming ever more strident and perhaps irrational. Their constant drumbeat has turned the electorate into two hostile camps that hate each other. 

Worse, they stick to a false narrative regarding what many Americans, though perhaps a minority, believe to be Marxist and Anarchist foundations of ANTIFA and the principle organizers of Black Lives Matter and the “peaceful protesters” who engaged in wanton destruction and violence in major U.S cities, some controlled by elected officials of the Democratic Party.

So the question has arisen, what has Steve Herman been doing? Why did Trump single out the Voice of America by name for biased reporting, particularly while being run by holdover appointees of the Obama administration? 

As soon as the agency got on the White House’s radar, you know that put the wheels in motion for some serious internal inquiry now that its appointee is running USAGM.

This inquiry should examine Herman’s reporting since he was assigned to the White House, but in particular since 2016 when observers in and outside the agency began noticing a pattern in his social media and main reporting from that bureau.

There’s a lot to work with since Herman has been a prolific user of social media.   After all, he was crowned VOA’s “Twitter King” by previous leaders of VOA and USAGM.

But this goes beyond Herman and into the agency itself.

For a number of years VOA has tried to pass itself off as “an independent news organization.” Well, guess what?

It isn’t.

It is part of the Federal government. And this has been the big trap for the agency and its employees. For many years, they actually believed this “independent” crap. 

In recent years, the agency and some of its employees used terms like “independent” and “firewall” as terms synonymous with lack of accountability, oversight and review.

No agency of the federal government is beyond the reach of accountability, oversight and review. If anything, this agency has gone through a long period of insufficient accountability, oversight and review and the result is abuse of these principles, particularly the VOA Charter.

Clearly, this agency and some of its officials readily embraced the notion of “resistance.” 

That was obvious in posts by agency employees to social media, negative and often crude depictions of Trump online, and as part of a VOA newsroom parody of Trump, his wife and his children before he took the oath of office.

Trump hate.

VOICE of America Ukrainian service 2016 U.S. presidential campaign video

VOA, the VOA newsroom in particular but not exclusively, has developed a reputation for a one-sided radical partisan bent. This really became visible when Trump was running for election and the way he was characterized in various VOA online posts and in public social media comments and memes by some of VOA newsroom editors and reporters .

As we remarked at the time, if the same kind of treatment had been directed toward former president Barack Obama as he was entering office, one can only imagine the outrage. Clearly, the roots of bias and partisanship took hold before and after the 2016 election.

BBG-USAGM Watch reported on this over the same period. It is only now that these matters are getting the attention they deserve, but not from NPR, the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Hill, and other left-leaning mainstream media outlets.

One can expect partisan attacks directed at CEO Pack. That goes with the times.  And you can also forget the accolades by former Obama appointees in support of Herman. They know that whatever is uncovered in an examination of Herman or any other agency employee while they were running things, will reflect on them as well as any agency employee.

Even Amanda Bennett had to tell this “true professional” to stop blocking American journalists on his VOA work-related Twitter news feed. It was also under her watch when the VOA Ukrainian Service posted in 2016 an anti-Trump election campaign video in which the Republican Party candidate for president was called “pig” and “dog,” and a call for physical violence against him was condoned. Most of the anti-Trump memes were posted over a period of several years by various VOA editors and reporters while Amanda Bennett was VOA director. She claimed that she had taken effective measures against such behavior, which nevertheless continued until her departure in June 2020. Even shortly after she left, the VOA Urdu Service posted a Biden campaign video targeting American Muslims. The posting of the video by the Voice of America once more violated the VOA Charter.

This is not a pretty picture. 

It may determine whether or not there is any merit to having the agency at all, that it is too far gone down a path of bias and partisanship as to have seriously undermined the agency’s charter and mission. 

We have often argued this to be the case and that the national and public interest would be far better served by either transferring its functions to elsewhere in the government or to reconstitute it with a far smaller footprint.

This matter goes far deeper than Mr. Herman. The question may well be how current agency officials deal with it. “Business as usual,” which equates with a systemic failure of leadership and management, is not an option.

The Federalist

October 2020