BBG Watch Commentary

This is a follow-up to our commentary: No Voice of America report on controversy over confirmation of U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, BBG Watch, Dec. 4, 2014.

We note that while U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) fails to report on Senator McCain, State Department and White House statements on a controversial nomination and Senate confirmation of U.S. ambassador to Hungary, VOA has an “exclusive” story that reads like a North Korean government press release because it lacks any kind of balancing information. Major U.S. and international media outlets, which picked up North Korean denials provided by VOA, all included balancing information.

For your amusement, we also offer a link to a VOA post that shows that American men are becoming more vain or perhaps just concerned how their bottoms look when making important decisions on purchasing their underwear. At least some information about America is getting through to international audiences thanks to your tax dollars and VOA.

To relieve Voice of America of its burdensome VOA Charter (Public Law 94-350) duty to “present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and … also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies” and “represent America, not any single segment of American society, and … therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions,” as well as, to “serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news,” and to add also from VOA Charter that “VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive” — we post at the end a video and a partial transcript of State Department daily press briefing by Marie Harf, Deputy Spokesperson, December 3, 2014.


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There is still nothing at all on the Voice of America (VOA) main English news website on the State Department – McCain – Hungary – Colleen Bell story. There is also nothing on the story on most of VOA’s foreign language news websites.

But we offer two recent VOA postings. The first one is a VOA “Exclusive” on North Korea. The problem with the Voice of America story on North Korea is that it completely lacks balance. There is no mention in the VOA story on North Korea of information from cyber experts, which other media outlets had reported, that would expose possible lies (we say “possible,” because North Korea never lies) in what otherwise looks like VOA’s press release on behalf of the North Korean regime.

The other post is a typical Voice of America “Americana” story designed to inform international audiences about Americans and their habits.


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Here is a partial transcript of State Department daily press briefing by Marie Harf, Deputy Spokesperson, December 3, 2014. We also attach video.

QUESTION: Okay. Now onto Hungary.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: The Hungarian Government is none too pleased with Senator McCain, which is not really your concern directly, but they did happen to summon a U.S. diplomat to the foreign ministry to, I don’t know, listen to their complaint. Do you have – can you say who it was, what the message was from the – from the Hungarians?

MS. HARF: I don’t have those details yet. I’m checking with our team and we’ll see if we can get some.

QUESTION: Does the Administration share Senator McCain’s view that the prime minister of Hungary is a neo-fascist dictator who is trying to —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — cozy up to Putin?

MS. HARF: I think it’s no surprise that there are a number of views Senator McCain has espoused that we don’t share.

QUESTION: Is this one of them?

MS. HARF: As an Administration, I would put that in this category, of course. And I’ll see if there are more details on the diplomatic side. As this came about yesterday when I – when he referenced in his, I think, floor statement, our new ambassador to Hungary, obviously, we believe she will be a very good ambassador, are happy she’s been confirmed. Don’t have a lot more on it than that.


MS. HARF: But I’ll check with our folks on the ground to see if we have more details about diplomatic engagement.

QUESTION: Whether or not you agree with Senator McCain’s language or his rather rough description, you have expressed concerns about the situation – the situation in Hungary and what appears to be increasing authoritarianism. Is that still the case and he’s just using more blunt language?

MS. HARF: More colorful, which he is certainly known for. Let me check with our folks, Matt. I just don’t have a lot of details on this. Obviously, we express concerns when we have them. I wouldn’t share the same words that Senator McCain did.

QUESTION: Okay. And on the ambassador, it does appear that the situation in Hungary – well, I mean, I guess one could say – I’m not saying it – one could liken the situation there to a bit of a soap opera, so that she may, in fact, be very well-qualified, at least on that count. But do you know —

MS. HARF: Well, we think she’s very well-qualified.

QUESTION: Do you know when she will be sworn in and when she will actually arrive?

MS. HARF: I don’t. And I’m – we’re trying to get some more details on that for – also for our new ambassador to Argentina and for some other folks as well. So we’ll check and see if there’s an update on that.


QUESTION: Sorry. Along those lines, I know you’ve been saying 70/30 is the split and it’s similar to other administrations.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But in the second term, it seems like it’s moved a little further towards the political side, over 40 percent, and —

MS. HARF: Well, that’s an average that crosses administrations throughout their entirety. It may during other administrations have at one point or another been a different percentage, but it’s in line with the percentage breakdown we’ve always had.

QUESTION: So there’s no specific change, you think, in those?

MS. HARF: There is not. I can guarantee you of that.