BBG – USAGM Watch Commentary
A screenshot taken on November 19, 2017 of an anti-Trump meme reposted on Facebook May 7, 2016 by a VOA reporter during the U.S. presidential election campaign.
In the last several years, U.S. tax-funded Voice of America (VOA) cited the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) 146 times on its English-language news website, mostly to prove its message that Donald Trump is the U.S. President giving rise to forces of “hate and prejudice.” Key VOA officials, editors and reporters are U.S. federal government employees. The vast majority of VOA English news reports citing SPLC have been posted since the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign. VOA rarely if ever identified SPLC in its reports as a “liberal” or “advocacy” group, while often labeling similar advocacy groups associated with the right political spectrum as “conservative.” Judicial Watch, which is an advocacy group on the right similar to SPLC on the left but without recent reports of scandals has been mentioned on the VOA English-language news website only 27 times. It is a clear mathematical proof of VOA’s partisan bias. The VOA Charter requires the Voice of America to report with balance on U.S. politics.
The Voice of America has become not only partisan and biased, it also engages in self-censorship to protect organizations and individuals associated with left-wing political causes. While citing SPLC dozens of times in their news reports, VOA writers and editors have been largely silent in recent days, with the exception of one short wire service report, about the controversy surrounding the Southern Poverty Law Center’s leadership. SPLC leaders resigned over scandals, and the organization’s research was exposed as fraudulent. In fact, problems at the SPLC have been known for quite some time and were reported even by liberal media outlets in the U.S., but not by the Voice of America which continued to use the organization’s research and failed to warn its audiences that it might be highly partisan and unreliable.
VOA writers and editors are known to be reluctant to report on problems at liberal organizations and media outlets. They recently waited several days before posting a report on anti-Semitic comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and did it only after they were criticized by BBG – USAGM Watch.
While other U.S. media outlets, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, have reported extensively in multiple stories on the scandals at the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Voice of America posted only a short AP report on March 25, 2019 about trouble at its frequently cited “hate in America” news source. The AP report used by VOA does not mention that the SPLC research has been criticized as unreliable and even fraudulent by some of the most liberal media in the United States. Even after the SPLC scandal broke, VOA posted its own news report citing SPLC research data without mentioning that it might be deceptive.
The following links to U.S. private media articles and op-eds offer a picture of an organization which lied to and deceived Americans, and through VOA also foreign audiences, that fringe right-wing hate groups are rapidly expanding and define what America has become under President Trump.
Southern Poverty Law Center President Plans Exit Amid Turmoil. By Alan Blinder. The New York Times, March 22, 2019.
Southern Poverty Law Center president steps down as organization begins workplace review. By Michael Brice-Saddler. The Washington Post, March 22, 2019.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has lost all credibility. By Marc A. Thiessen. The Washington Post, June 22, 2018.
The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Both a Terrible Place to Work and a Place That Does Terrible Work: Top executives are departing amidst reports of racial and sexual harassment. By Robby Soave. Reason, March 27, 2019
VOA’s radical left and anti-Trump bias can be easily measured by doing a simple search of its English-language website. The Southern Poverty Law Center appears 146 times. A search for Judicial Watch, which could be considered an equivalent advocacy group on the right, shows only 27 results. Furthermore, while in some of its reports VOA identifies the Judicial Watch as a “conservative” advocacy group and questions its findings, VOA editors and reporters have provided no such ideological disclaimers with regards to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Even after the organization has been thoroughly discredited, the Voice of America is still using the Southern Poverty Law Center research to convince foreign audiences and Americans reading VOA reports in English online that America has become a racist and violent society because of Donald Trump.
While there are, of course, fringe hate groups in America, both on the right and the left, foreign and American audiences are being deceived by such partisan propaganda from VOA into believing that only white supremacists engage in hate speech and acts of violence and that it is a widespread phenomenon in American society. VOA’s bias is obvious and overwhelming.
The VOA English newsroom has always had a sightly left-wing bias, but until the last few years, VOA officials insisted that the organization’s journalists observed the VOA Charter, the 1976 U.S. law which forbids partisan and activist journalism. The VOA Charter requires that VOA news must be always accurate, balanced and comprehensive.
This has changed under the current Obama administration-era appointees who in 2015 and 2016 were put in charge of VOA and its parent federal agency, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), previously called the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
In 2016, VOA Director Amanda Bennett sent out an email to staff, in which she highlighted a one-sided VOA Spanish Service interview with an illegal immigrant who called Donald Trump’s immigration plan a reflection of “hate and prejudice.” She subsequently called for anti-bias training for VOA journalists, but some of them continued to post obscene anti-Trump memes for many more months.
Amanda Bennett’s boss, USAGM CEO and Director, John F. Lansing, also an Obama administration era appointee, tried to convince NPR in 2017 that agency employees have “the greatest respect for the President,” while at the same time memes posted on social media by VOA reporters showed Donald Trump with a Nazi swastika over his head and as a male sex organ.
During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, a VOA foreign language service versioned in a foreign language and posted on VOA’s social media platforms an anti-Trump election campaign video which described him as “punk,” “dog,” “pig,” “con,” “buls**t artist,” “mutt,” “idiot,” “fool,” “bozo,” and “blatantly stupid.” The video was eventually withdrawn but only after several protests were made to the agency.
We have suggested somewhat in jest that the State Department may have to launch special public diplomacy programs to counter such VOA propaganda abroad even if it cannot counter them in the United States. Whether one approves of President Trump or not, the United States has a problem with VOA as a tax-funded entity because it is forbidden by law to engage in either left-wing or right wing propaganda and should not present a false image of America with inaccurate and fraudulent data regardless of its source.
Fortunately, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may have been paying attention to our warnings. He said last week in Congress that a leadership change is needed at the agency in charge of VOA.
SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO: “It’s a challenge. It still has a leadership challenge, because we all know the history of BBG board and how it came to be fractious and had become political. We still have not resolved that situation. And I would urge to get a CEO of that organization in place so that the BBG will have the right leadership so they can do the traditional mission – perhaps in a different information environment than we did back in the Cold War, but can perform its function in a way that is important and noble, and reflects the enormous resources that are – that American taxpayers have put towards that. I’m very concerned about it.“
END OF BBG – USAGM WATCH COMMENTARY
THE VOICE OF AMERICA
March 25, 2019 7:13 AM
The deadly mosque shootings in New Zealand last week by a gunman who promoted an anti-immigrant manifesto coincide with a surge in the incidents of right-wing extremist killings in the U.S.
Last year, domestic extremists killed at least 50 people in the U.S., up from 37 murders in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, which tracks such murders. The last five years have produced a higher number of extremist-related murders than any other five-year period since 1970, according to the ADL.
Mark Pitcavage, a senior fellow at the Center on Extremism, said that every one of the perpetrators of last year’s murders had ties to at least one right-wing movement.
The majority of the murders were committed by white supremacists, with a smaller number perpetrated by anti-government extremists and extreme misogynists who identify as “involuntary celibates” or incels, Pitcavage said.
While a few high-profile incidents such as the massacre of 11 Jewish worshippers by white supremacist Robert Bowers at a Pittsburgh synagogue last October have been widely reported, others have received scant attention.
Just two months before the synagogue shooting rampage, another man espousing white supremacist views, Joden Rocco, stabbed a 24-year-old black man outside a bar in Pittsburgh. In an Instagram video posted before the killing, Rocco said that he was trying to see how many times he could use a racial slur for African-Americans before getting kicked out of bars.
“Every year there are a number of incidents like this where one person dies or sometimes two people die, but it was not something where there were mass casualties … or attracted a lot of attention, but it was an extremist killing someone,” Pitcavage said. “Someone died. There was a victim. A life was lost.”
Among other underreported incidents:
- In January 2018, Samuel Woodward stabbed to death Blaze Bernstein, a gay Jewish college student. Investigators later found homophobic and neo-Nazi material on Woodward’s cellphone, including content related to the violent hate group Atomwaffen
- In October, Gregory Bush, a 51-year-old unemployed white resident of Louisville, Kentucky, killed two African-Americans ages 67 and 69, at a supermarket. While the ADL excluded Bush from its list of extremist-tied murderers due to a lack of evidence, other organizations have counted the murders as related to right-wing extremism
- In November, Scott Paul Beierle, a man who had posted sexist and racist videos online, killed two women and injured four others at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida
In addition to ADL, other research organizations have also reported increases in extremist-related killings last year, though in smaller numbers. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino tracked 22 ideologically driven murders in 2018, including 17 carried out by white supremacists, up from 15 the previous year.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said at least 40 people were killed in the U.S. and Canada by “individuals who were either motivated by or attracted to far-right ideologies.” SPLC said 2018 was the deadliest year for victims of right-wing extremism.
“We’re just seeing a whole lot of violence from people who are influenced by white supremacy and that kind of extremism,” said Heidi Beirich, director of SPLC’s intelligence project.
President Donald Trump said recently that he did not think white nationalism was a growing problem following the New Zealand rampage by self-styled white nationalist Brenton Tarrant that killed 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques.
But the SPLC said white nationalism is on the rise. The Alabama-based legal advocacy organization recently reported that the number of hate groups in the U.S. rose to a record 1,020 last year, boosted by increases in the number of both white and black nationalist groups.
Not all white nationalists are violent. But those who commit acts of violence in the name of white nationalism do so out of fear that immigration into Western countries is sowing the seeds of “white genocide,” experts say.
“If you look at the man who killed all those people tragically in New Zealand, he talks constantly about white people being displaced in their home countries,” Beirich said.
With demographic fears driving the violence, Beirich said the problem is unlikely to go away any time soon.
“The demographic trends that they view as destroying them are not going to shift,” Beirich said.
END OF VOA NEWS REPORT