BBG Watch Commentary

BBG Watch is posting this commentary as an introduction to an op-ed by former presidentially-appointed Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member, American broadcaster and journalist Blanquita Cullum, who called a recent Voice of America video on Islamist terrorism “flawed, lazy, corrupted and wrong,” as well as dangerous for the United States and innocent civilians abroad. Nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate, she was BBG Governor from 2002 to 2010.
BBG Watch–This week U.S. taxpayer-funded and government-run Voice of America (VOA), a multimedia outlet for overseas audiences but available online to everyone with internet access in the United States and through a few American radio programs, TV stations, and newspapers, posted on Facebook a video which challenges viewers to think about a purported equivalency between Islamist terrorism and homegrown American terrorists, U.S. citizens who may be inspired by racism or hate of gays.

“The VOA video makes a big deal out of semantic differences between the label of ‘Islamic’ versus ‘Islamist,’ which is a legitimate point, but it overlooks or glances over other highly material facts when comparing relatively rare racist-inspired terrorism in the U.S. with Islamist terrorism in the U.S. and abroad,” former Voice of America acting associate director, journalist and writer Ted Lipien observed after watching the VOA video.

These overlooked facts would include countless suicide bombings against innocent civilians; genocide of Yazidis and Christians; slavery of women; executions of children and by children; mass rapes; crucifixions; throwing homosexuals from rooftops; rocket attacks on civilian targets in Israel; and knife attacks on Israeli men and women, Lipien, who is one of the co-founders of BBG Watch, pointed out.

The VOA video, however, makes Islamist terrorism look not much different from any hate-inspired killing in America.

During the last several days, VOA also posted on the web videos and articles which supporters of U.S. presidential candidates, Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump condemned as U.S. state-media hit pieces.

Writing for Shadowproof investigative journalism blog, commentator Dan Wright observed that “VOA does not have the right to advocate for a particular candidate or even to attack one. That is not within its charter, nor should any US citizen have to subsidize their own defamation.”

A BBG Watch reader posted a comment: “But how could this be? Reading the BBG [official government] website, one would think everything is just fine at the agency and VOA is doing a wonderful job. … I’m writing to my congressman.” The reader was referring to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the presidentially-appointed federal board which oversees the Voice of America.

A former Voice of America Russian broadcaster described the VOA video on the purported Islamist terrorism-American racism equivalency issue as “bungled” in its attempt to equate what radical Islamist terrorists are doing with the shooting spree of the U.S. citizen who opened fire in an African-American church. The journalist observed that the VOA video made both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump look bad. Hillary Clinton, who herself was a BBG member when she was Secretary of State, called the agency in 2013 practically defunct.”

The agency seems to be going from bad to worse even under its new board and management. Former Broadcasting Board of Governors Republican member, radio journalist Blanquita Cullum, questioned the VOA video in a commentary which BBG Watch is reposting below.

A current BBG Republican member, Russia expert Dr. Leon Aron, confirmed this week at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing which focused partly on the recruitment of ISIS fighters in Russia, that the U.S. BBG media is inadequate in countering Putin propaganda. He suggested that even under Kremlin censorship some of the remaining independent indigenous Russian media outlets are doing a much better job than VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). This view has been also confirmed by independent Russian and other journalists and American experts.

Using a colloquial American expression, one young Russian reporter wrote this week in English that the joint VOA-RFE/RL Russian television program Current Time “sucks,” “their videos are biased and fail to attract attention,” and the management has resorted to posting expensive to produce fluff videos to gain clicks. The young award-winning multimedia journalist who made these comments had worked briefly at RFE/RL before moving on to be employed by popular independent Russian media news sites.

Voice of America director Amanda Bennett, on the other hand, has praised recent Voice of America coverage. In an e-mail to staff sent on Friday, June 17, Bennett said that this week the Voice of America helped “to carry out our mission of telling America’s story in a way that resonates with our audiences.”

VOA DIRECTOR AMANDA BENNETT: “You quickly and effectively found the things your own audiences could most relate to. You also documented things that our audiences do not relate to – and helped explain why. You connected the event with U.S. foreign policy and with social values both here and in the countries we serve. You documented heartbreak while at the same time working hard to convey officials’ views and statements about the tragedy.”

In terms of readers’ comments, the VOA English news website shows nearly zero audience engagement. BBC’s overall Alexa ranking in Russia is 100 and BBC’s global ranking is 128. (1 is best.) VOA English site’s global Alexa ranking is 4,854. BBC Russian Service has nearly three times as many Facebook “Likes” as VOA Russian Service Facebook page. VOA Russian Service’s Alexa rank in Russia is 3,568. Its global rank is 31,595. Alexa Internet, Inc. is a California-based Amazon company that provides commercial web traffic data and analytics. Again, 1 is best in Russia and globally. According BBG member Dr. Leon Aron, Russian speakers from Russia and the former Soviet states, primarily Central Asia, are the second largest language group in ISIS after Arabic speakers.

Pitting Islam Versus Islamism in the Wake of Orlando | Voice of America (VOA)


Voice of America Terrorism Video – Flawed and Dangerous Journalism

by Blanquita Cullum

The Voice of America, without attribution to originator, posted a video to its English language website and Facebook poorly questioning what constitutes terrorism by Islamic extremists.

This VOA piece fails to include the endless list of brutal attacks by Islamic extremists in Europe and the Middle East and the horrific conditions it imposes on populations in territory it controls.

Here is a list of “Islamist Terrorist Attacks” in 2016 that VOA failed to list in that “piece,” as found on Wikipedia:

  • Afghanistan January 1, 2016 – A Taliban suicide bomber detonated himself in a French restaurant called ‘Le Jardin’ in Kabul. 2 dead 15 injured.[204]
  • India January 2, 2016 – In the 2016 Pathankot attack suspected Jaish-e-Mohammed militants attacked an Indian air base killing 7 security force members. Several injured.[205]
  • Iraq January 3, 2016 – Five Islamist suicide bombers attack an Iraqi military base. 15 dead and 22 injured.[206]
  • Afghanistan January 4, 2016 – A Militant drove a truck packed with explosives to the armored gates of a compound for civilian contractors near Kabul’s airport before detonating. 30 people injured, including children.[207]
  • Libya January 7, 2016 – In the Zliten truck bombing Islamist militants detonated a truck bomb at the police training camp al-Jahfal in the coastal town of Zliten, Libya. 50+ dead 100+ wounded.[208]
  • France January 7, 2016 – In the January 2016 Paris police station attack an Islamist from Morocco wearing a fake explosive belt attacked police officers with a meat cleaver. He was shot dead.[209]
  • Libya January 7, 2016 – A car bombing at a checkpoint in the Libyan oil port of Ras Lanuf left seven people dead and 11 wounded.[210]
  • Egypt January 8, 2016 – In the 2016 Hurghada attack two militants armed with a melee weapon and a signal flare stormed the Bella Vista Hotel. 3 injured.[211]
  • France January 11, 2016 – A 15-year old Turkish ISIL supporter attacked a teacher from a Jewish school in Marseille with a machete. 1 injured.[212]
  • Iraq January 11, 2016 – ISIL gunmen detonate suicide vests in a shopping mall, killing at least 20 and wounding more than 40 people.[213]
  • Turkey January 12, 2016 – In the 2016 Istanbul bombing an ISIL suicide bomber kills 10 tourists and injures 15 more in the historical centre of Istanbul.[214]
  • Indonesia January 14, 2016 – In the 2016 Jakarta attacks 4 assailants kill 2 and injure 24 in a terrorist attack in Jakarta. The attack was orchestrated and financed from ISIL in Syria.[215]
  • Somalia January 15, 2016 – In the El Adde attack, Al-Shabaab terrorists attack a African Union Kenyan army base in El-Adde. 63+ killed, several injured.[216]
  • Burkina Faso January 15, 2016 – In the 2016 Ouagadougou attack Islamist gunmen armed with heavy weapons attacked the Cappuccino restaurant and the Splendid Hotel in the heart of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. 20+ killed. 15+ injured.[217]
  • Pakistan January 21, 2016 – At least 22 killed in attack on Bacha Khan University, Pakistan. The Taliban claim responsibility for the attack.[218]
  • Somalia January 22, 2016 – Al-Shabab attack on beachside restaurant leaves 20 dead.[219]
  • Cameroon January 25, 2016 – Suspected Boko Haram insurgents have blown themselves up in a market in Cameroon, killing at least 25 people and injuring 62 others.[220]
  • Nigeria January 30, 2016 – Boko Haram gunmen raided a Nigerian village, at least 65 people were killed and 136 others injured.[221]
  • Ivory Coast March 13, 2016 – In the 2016 Grand-Bassam shootings Al Qaeda gunmen stormed 3 hotels in the beach resort city of Grand-Bassam in the Ivory Coast, leaving 18 people dead.[222]
  • Iraq March 20, 2016 – In Anbar, Iraq, ISIL suicide bombers kill at least 24 at municipal building[223]
  • Belgium March 22, 2016 – 2016 Brussels bombings includes two suicide bombings in Brussels Airport and one bombing in Brussels Metro that resulted in 35 deaths and more than 300 wounded.[224]
  • Yemen March 25, 2016 – Three ISIL suicide bombers strike security checkpoints in the Yemeni city of Aden, killing 26 people.[225][226]
  • Iraq March 25, 2016 – 30 people killed and 95 injured after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a football stadium in Iskandariya, south of Baghdad. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack.[227][228]
  • Pakistan March 27, 2016 – The 2016 Lahore suicide bombing targeted Christians who had gathered on Easter in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park. The blast, by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Pakistani Taliban faction, killed at least 70 people and injured 300 others.[229][230]
  • Afghanistan April 19, 2016 – The April 2016 Kabul attack targeted a security team responsible for protecting government VIPs in Kabul, Afghanistan. The attack killed 64 people and wounded 347. It was the Taliban’s biggest attack on an urban area since 2001.[231]
  • Bangladesh April 23, 2016 – Attackers hacked a university professor to death in the city of Rajshahi, Bangladesh. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack stating that they assassinated him “for calling to atheism in the city of Rajshahi in Bangladesh”.[232][233]
  • Bangladesh April 25, 2016 – Two gays rights activists were hacked to death in the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka. An Al-Qaeda affiliated group claimed responsibility for the attacks and stated they killed the two as they were “pioneers of practicing [sic] and promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh”.[234][235]
  • Iraq May 11, 2016 – At least 40 people were killed and 60 injured in a car bomb attack on a market in Baghdad. ISIL claims responsibility.[236]
  • United States June 12, 2016 – At least 50 people were killed and 53 injured in a mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The shooter, Omar Mateen, pledged allegiance to ISIL.[237][238]
  • France June 14, 2016 – Two french citizens, a police officer and his wife were stabbed to death in Magnanville, France by a man swearing his allegiance to ISIS.[239]

What causes the death of freedom?

It is compromised, flawed and politically correct journalists and journalistic entities who denigrate the truth based on political bias and not facts.   History has showed us that corrupt journalism has proven to be the leverage tyranny relies upon to make evil confusing and tolerable.

Who do the masses trust when reporting is flawed, lazy, corrupted and wrong?

As for VOA:

How is it that biases have taken the place of balanced and thorough reporting?

Where are the editorial controls and oversight?

Who produced this piece, since it lacks attribution on VOA’s Facebook page?

Do VOA Director Amanda Bennett and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) John Lansing find this piece acceptable for a US Government website funded by the American taxpayer?

There are many serious problems at the Voice of America. This piece is indicative of the depth of those problems and the dangers this agency now poses through lack of balanced reporting which in turn results in confusion, disinformation, misinformation and a selective, narrow and superficial view of issues.


Blanquita Cullum is a journalist, veteran award winning radio and television broadcaster, marketing specialist, strategic planner and small business owner. She hosted a nationally syndicated radio program listed by Talkers Magazine as one of the “Talkers 100” for over a decade. She is former President of the National Assn. of Radio Talk Show Hosts. Ms. Cullum serves as the annual emcee of the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington DC. She has broadcast and appeared as a guest on radio and television on major networks in the United States and internationally. Cullum serves as a judge on the New York Festivals International Radio Competition. Her op-eds have appeared in the Washington Times, Weekly Standard, Richmond Times Dispatch and many other outlets. Ms Cullum has been honored by Senator Thomas Coburn in the Congressional Record for her service as a Governor on the Broadcasting Board of Governors for the United States. Her career began in radio and television in San Antonio, Texas.