BBG – USAGM Watch History
March 12 is the anniversary of the death in 2003 of Howard Fast, American writer and journalist, Communist Party USA member and the 1953 receipient of the Stalin International Peace Prize, worth about $235,000 in today’s dollars, who in 1943 was the chief writer of Voice of America (VOA) radio news. He claimed to had suggested as a joke Yankee Doodle as Voice of America’s signature tune and the management surprised him by accepting his suggestion, but this claim could not be confirmed. According to one description on the official Voice of America website, VOA adopted its “Yankee Doodle” station identification tune when John Chancellor was the VOA Director between 1965 and 1967 had used earlier “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean”). Howard Fast was, however, the first or one of the first Voice of America news directors. He is the only Stalin Peace Prize laureate among VOA’s former employees. He was one of many Communists and Soviet Russia sympathizers who spread Soviet propaganda and disinformation in Voice of America programs during World War II. The first Voice of America Director John Houseman was also known as a Communist sympathizer and it was he who hired his Communist friends to fill many of VOA’s wartime jobs. In 1943, the U.S. State Department refused to issue Houseman a U.S. passport for official VOA travel abroad and he was forced to resign. Fast resigned from his VOA job a few months later when State Department also refused to issue him a U.S. passport.
“I established contact at the Soviet embassy with people who spoke English and were willing to feed me important bits and pieces from their side of the wire. I had long ago, somewhat facetiously, suggested ‘Yankee Doodle’ as our musical signal, and now that silly little jingle was a power cue, a note of hope everywhere on earth…” 1
Howard Fast, 1953 Stalin Peace Prize winner, best-selling author, journalist, former Communist Party member and reporter for its newspaper The Daily Worker, decribing his role as the chief writer of Voice of America (VOA) radio news translated into multiple languages and rebroadcast for four hours daily to Europe through medium wave transmitters leased from the BBC in 1942-1943. Howard Fast, Being Red (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), pp. 18-19.
“The records of the men involved seem to indicate that should there be a divergence between the policy of the States and the policy of Soviet Russia, these men, with a large degree of control of the American machinery of war making, would probably follow the line taken by Russia, rather than the line taken by the United States.” 2
Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles in previously classified April 6, 1943 memorandum to Marvin H. McIntyre, Secretary to the President, with enclosures, justifying the denial to issue U.S. passports for official government travel abroad to VOA Director John Houseman and other Office of War Information (OWI) employees suspected of being Soviet and Communist sympathizers.
“There are still too many of the old OWI [Office of War Information] employees working for the Voice, both in this country and overseas. I mean those writers, translators and broadcasters who so wholeheartedly and enthusiastically tried for many years to create ‘love for Stalin,’ when this was the official policy of our ill-advised wartime Government and of our military government in Germany. There is no doubt that all those employees were at that time deeply convinced of the absolute correctness of that pro-Stalinist propaganda. How can we expect them to do the exact opposite now?” 3
Journalist Julius Epstein quoted by Congressman George A. Dondero (R-MI) in Congressional Record, August 9, 1950. The quote was from the article which was published in the Evening Star Washington newspaper on August 7, 1950.
“They failed to acknowledge the human inclination to abuse power, ignored horrific consequences, and often rationalized Soviet barbarities as historically necessary. One of the benefits of examining the life of Howard Fast is that it enables us to make yet one more exploration into the hoary question of how this could have happened.” 4
Gerald Sorin, Howard Fast: Life and Literature in the Left Lane (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012).
“Those broadcasts were lifelines to millions. Even more important, however, was the promise made right from the start: ‘The news may be good for us. The news may be bad,’ said announcer William Harlan Hale. ‘But we shall tell you the truth.’” 5
Amanda Bennett, Voice of America Director, “Trump’s ‘worldwide network’ is a great idea. But it already exists.” The Washington Post, November 27, 2018.
“…starting in the first decade of the 2000s, the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, and the leadership of VOA’s Mandarin service began an annual meeting to allow embassy officials to voice their opinions about VOA’s content.” 6
A report of the Working Group on Chinese Influence Activities in the United States prepared by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Center on US-China Relations at Asia Society in New York, October 24, 2018.
“This dynamic, on the whole, perpetuated to audiences the appearance of pro-regime propaganda, rather than objective reporting, on the part of both the VOA and Farda.” 7
American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC), U.S. Persian Media Study, October 6, 2017.
“VOA has been too careful in avoiding anything that might look like a ‘anti-Russian’ bias….that could be regarded as a ‘pro-Russian’ (or, rather, pro-Putin) bias. 8
Nikolai Rudenskiy, Voice of America Russian Website Evaluation, 2011.