BBG Watch Commentary
No Mention on Tax-funded VOA News Website of Possible Blexit
Plenty of One-Sided Left-Wing Propaganda from Voice of America
Photo of Voice of America (VOA) Director Amanda Bennett holding an USAGM umbrella (United States Agency for Global Media) with “NEW NAME, SAME GREAT COVERAGE” caption.
U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) federally-managed by holdover officials from the Obama administration continues to violate its Congressional (U.S. law) Charter with biased, one-sided news coverage of U.S. politics in some of its English and foreign language programs and gives strong preference to voices of radical Leftists over voices of responsible conservative Americans.
VOA English News Service has avoided any online mention of a possible Blexit (African Americans voting for Republican candidates) and ignores such conservative African Americans women as Candace Owens (see her video) while frequently giving a platform to extreme Left-wing views without offering countervailing opinions.
While the Voice of America had some coverage of Kanye West’s support for Trump, VOA’s silence on Blexit and Candace Owens is curious because Russian propagandists have been exploiting the Blexit topic for possible interference in U.S. elections, as reported by The Daily Beast and other U.S. media.
SEE: Russian Propaganda Veterans Push Candace Owens’ ‘Blexit’ Campaign, Kevin Poulsen, Will Sommer, The Daily Beast, November 2, 2018
Some VOA reporters and editors have been promoting in recent years monologue videos, including one with American communist winner of Soviet Lenin Peace Prize Angela Davis, as well as full-length, videos without any balance showing burning of American and Israeli flags by anti-American and anti-Trump demonstrators abroad.
VOA has also posted online a TV spot without any balance in which Donald Trump was called “punk,” “dog,” “pig,” “con,” “buls**t artist,” “mutt,” “idiot,” “fool,” “bozo,” and “blatantly stupid.” Some VOA English News reporters described Trump with f-words in personal but public social media posts.
ONE-SIDED VOICE OF AMERICA VIDEO WITH TRANSLATED ATTACK ON DONALD TRUMP
While the management caught one VOA reporter who anonymously posted pro-Trump messages, many more reporters who openly and repeatedly over many months posted anti-Trump messages were not publicly disciplined. In fact, a few of these openly anti-Trump reporters are still prominently listed on the Voice of America website as experts who can be interviewed by other media to discuss topics, including how objective journalism should be practiced.
The Voice of America has lost its political neutrality on coverage of domestic U.S. politics. Whether Blexit happens or not in any significant numbers will only become known after the mid-term elections on Tuesday, but foreign audiences deserve at least to be informed about such a possibility by a media outlet funded by all U.S. taxpayers. Some conservative African Americans claim that illegal immigration harms the poorest Black workers and have pointed to employment gains by Blacks under Donald Trump’s presidency. VOA should have tried to explain how true these claims may be or debunk them if they are not.
It is quite possible that Blexit may not happen because, historically, mid-term elections usually favor the party which does not control the White House and the Congress, but it does not mean that the issue is not worthy of balanced coverage by VOA.
Whether African Americans vote Republican in greater numbers than in previous mid-term elections or not, it will be in any case interesting to see how well or how poorly Republicans and Democrats do in this year’s voting.
Blexit may turn out to be merely wishful thinking among conservative African Americans, who until now have been a small minority within their community, but VOA should not ignore them.
If Angela Davis is worthy of coverage by VOA, so is Candace Owens who has been far more in the news lately than the former defender of Soviet Russia and Soviet communism, but it should not be in any case a one-sided monologue, such as the one in which VOA presented Angela Davis and promoted her as a champion of human rights.
VOA has abandoned its mostly neutral, observing and explaining role in covering American politics and has become in some of its services and some programs a radical anti-Trump and anti-Republican advocacy media outlet which happens to be funded by U.S. taxes.
Blexit or no Blexit, VOA may again be caught unprepared for objective and fair U.S. election coverage.
Before the presidential election night in 2016, VOA News already under the leadership of VOA Director Amanda Bennett and her deputy Sandy Sugawara, had written and prepared two ready-to-air “Hillary Wins” broadcasts, but had nothing similar about Donald Trump. Some of the key VOA reporters and editors were absolutely convinced that the Democratic Party candidate would win and their coverage reflected this belief as well as their previous desire to help Hillary Clinton in their news coverage. Not having a program about one of the major presidential candidates pre-written and ready for broadcast on U.S. election night has never happened before in VOA’s entire history. It happened under Amanda Bennett’s watch.
SEE: Voice of America had two pre-written ‘Clinton will win programs’; none for Trump, VOA staffers say, BBG Watch, November 9, 2016
During the 2016 election campaign, a few of VOA’s foreign language services had posted full-length Hillary Clinton campaign videos in addition to the video, aired in full by VOA with English audio and foreign language captions without any counterbalancing material, in which Trump was described by a Hollywood actor using extremely abusive language with no balancing material or any context whatsoever.
Later,Bennett’s boss, United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) CEO John Lansing told NPR that the agency has nothing but respect for the President of the United States and Amanda Bennett keeps insisting that she is absolutely committed to fair and objective journalism while at the same time letting everybody know on the USAGM website to this day that she supports political causes favored by the Left.
Former VOA directors avoided expressing their private political views on domestically controversial issues in order not to influence the journalistic staff and to avoid any appearance of partisanship. In July 2016 Bennett sent this email to staff:
July 8 at 1:11pm
Check out this week’s highlights below.
VOA Spanish interviewed two undocumented immigrants who are high school valedictorians in Texas. Larissa Martinez of Dallas, who received a full scholarship to Yale University, said that many illegal immigrants like her live in fear. She called Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s immigration plan one of “hate and prejudice.”
It should not matter whether someone working for the Voice of America and the U.S. Agency for Global Media is a Republican or a Democrat, but partisan coverage by VOA at U.S. taxpayers’ expense is not only journalistically unacceptable, it also violates U.S. law.
During the Cold War, VOA enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the country and in the U.S. Congress. This was largely due to the overwhelming threat from Soviet Russia and generally non-partisan content of VOA broadcasts on topics dealing with U.S. domestic politics.
Only extreme Left-wing Communist activists such as Angela Davis opposed anti-Soviet U.S. policies and broadcasts beamed behind the iron and bamboo courtains. In Congress, only a few most extreme Left-wing members voted during the Cold War against appropriations for VOA, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. VOA central English-language service always had a Left-leaning tilt (the first VOA director John Houseman was a pro-Soviet sympathizer who hired communists and was forced to resign), but while some VOA reporters took subtle barbs at Ronald Reagan during his presidency, they would never dare to call him in public a “Joke” or stream live on social media sex jokes about Nancy Reagan as some VOA Newsroom reporters did about Melania Trump in 2016.
Left-wing partisanship at the Voice of America has exploded under current VOA director who was selected in 2016 by Obama-era appointee, U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) CEO John F. Lansing. The agency was then called the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
Lansing still occupies the top position in the agency (Fiscal Year 2019 U.S. Budget sent to Congress on February 12, 2018 includes $661.1 million for USAGM) overseeing VOA and other tax-funded U.S. media outlets designed to serve foreign audiences but also being increasingly accessed on Internet by Americans in the United States.
These Americans are now being fed much of the time a one-sided partisan Left-wing narrative produced by U.S. Federal government employees and contractors. About half of VOA English News web traffic is believed to come from the U.S., tainting American political discourse with domestic propaganda from the U.S. Government although in the VOA’s current case not from the Trump administration as VOA is still under firm control of officials appointed during the Obama administration.
A few articles in mainstream Left-leaning media speculated that President Trump may try to turn VOA into a Right-wing outlet. That certainly has not happened. The White House would have a hard time even to try to bring back VOA to a measure of political neutrality which it had during the Cold War. At that time, VOA broadcasters tried hard to hide their political affiliations and most would not allow themselves to show personal political bias in their programs. This has radically changed under the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the old name of the U.S. Agency for U.S. Media, and accelerated in a dramatic fashion under John Lansing and Amanda Bennett.
Partisanship has also affected VOA’s coverage of U.S. foreign policy, international politics and human rights issues. In 2017, the BBG commissioned an independent study of Voice of America and Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) — VOA Persian Service and RFE/RL Radio Farda — coverage to Iran. The study showed violations of the VOA Charter in partisan, one-sided reporting in favor of the Obama administration policies toward Iran, including pro-Iranian regime propaganda, but the agency’s leadership dismissed such coverage as not “systematic.”