BBG Watch Commentary
Unprecedented use of hate speech, use of an F-word, a vulgar and sexist sex joke about Melania Trump, and biased reporting by some Voice of America (VOA) journalists happened under the chaotic leadership of VOA director Amanda Bennett and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John Lansing who have taken no effective action to stop it, the agency’s internal and external critics charge.
Critics among concerned VOA journalists point out that when Trump supporters become targets of hate incidents, as in a recent attack in Chicago on a mentally disabled man, VOA either does not report on these stories (harassment of Ivanka Trump) or uses an AP report and buries it far down on the VOA’s USA News web page.
A few VOA reporters resort to hate speech themselves. It appears that for the first time in VOA’s history, a VOA reporter used an F-word in a public forum to condemn a presidential candidate and now future U.S. president Donald Trump. The VOA reporter called Trump “F*ckface Von Clownstick.”
The same VOA reporter also posted on a personal but publicly accessible Facebook page a meme showing Donald Trump’s face with a Nazi swastika and another meme depicting Mr. Trump as a sexual organ.
While these memes appear to have been posted by a VOA reporter outside of official U.S. government work, the VOA Ukrainian Service translated into Ukrainian and posted online on an official VOA Facebook page a video in which Donald Trump was called “punk,” “dog,” “pig,” “con,” “buls**t artist,” “mutt,” “idiot,” “fool,” “bozo,” and “blatantly stupid.” VOA did not attach to the video a rebuttal or a response of any kind. The video was eventually removed.
Contradicting her own earlier advice to VOA journalists when she urged them to avoid political bias in their reporting on the U.S. election campaign and even ordered anti-bias training, VOA director Amanda Bennett in an e-mail she sent to staff on July 8 hailed a Spanish Service video report, which in a clear violation of the VOA Charter, presented only one side of the highly controversial illegal immigration issue in the United States.
VOA Spanish Service interviewed an illegal immigrant who had received a full scholarship to Yale University. According to VOA’s description of the interview sent by Ms. Bennett to staff last July, the illegal immigrant reportedly called Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s immigration plan one of “hate and prejudice.”
It was obvious that when the VOA Spanish Service conducted and posted online its interview, no one from the Trump camp was asked by VOA to respond at the same time to the “hate and prejudice” charge or to help explain his position on illegal immigration for the VOA Spanish Service report, as the Voice of America was required to do by the VOA Charter. A few days later, Ms. Bennett marked the 40th anniversary of the VOA Charter with the statement that “The VOA Charter has never been more important than it is today.”
It seems that the “hate and prejudice” message took precedence among some Voice of America reporters who attacked Mr. Trump with “hate and prejudice” messages of their own, making a mockery of the VOA Charter. During the 2016 presidential election campaign, VOA had also published one-sided slurs against Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders and even an unproven slur against Senate Democratic leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) who was not seeking re-election.
The use of such hate speech and biased political reporting has never been seen in VOA programs prior to John Lansing and Amanda Bennett being approved by the Broadcasting Board of Governors for their positions in late 2015 and early 2016. Through a bipartisan legislation signed by President Obama, the BBG board has since been demoted to an advisory role.
In December 2016, Voice of America newsroom reporters, editors and managers, who are U.S. federal employees, collaborated on preparing a holiday skit in which they lampooned President-elect’s daughter Ivanka Trump, told a sex joke about Mrs. Trump, and said repeatedly that Donald Trump was “a joke.”
Many VOA journalists are appalled by the lack of leadership at the senior level, biased reporting, vulgar language, anti-women sexist jokes, and use of hate speech by a few of their colleagues. They also objected to a recent Voice of America production, “Descent Into Jihad: A young Turk’s transformation from astronomer to Islamic State fighter,” which was praised in a tweet by VOA director Amanda Bennett. According to these internal critics, the report romanticizes a terrorist, one experienced former VOA reporter posted a critical comment on social media.
Internal and external critics charge that chaos and confusion continue at the Voice of America and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Neither John Lansing nor Amanda Bennett has any prior U.S. government, foreign policy or public diplomacy experience.
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.” Mayte Lara of Austin, who received a full scholarship to the University of Texas, said that to succeed, young undocumented immigrants have to do more than any other social group in the United States. The story, which aired on VOA Spanish affiliates throughout Latin America, received more than 300,000 Facebook views and was shared nearly 800 times.”