BBG Watch Commentary

Internal memos from the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) show that one of its tax-funded media entities, the Voice of America (VOA), is trying to arrange for VOA’s pro bono contributor media personality Greta Van Susteren to interview President Trump for VOA. Trump administration officials may be wondering whether the president should talk to VOA where some English newsroom reporters have called him “a joke” in public, streamed a sex joke about his wife, used F-words to describe Donald Trump in public Facebook posts and posted memes of him with a swastika and a male sex organ.

SEE: Voice of America Civil Service Employees Satire Trump, Future First Lady

Greta Van Susteren, of course, had nothing to do with these unprofessional antics of VOA English newsroom reporters and editors. Trump knows her from her work outside of VOA and presumably respects her professionalism. Having failed to provide leadership to control the anti-Trump staff, United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) CEO John F. Lansing, and Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett may be trying to use Van Susteren to give an impression that VOA is a reputable news organization when in fact it is completely mismanaged and, at least in its English-language output, far to the left of CNN.

Perhaps President Trump took a note of it, (some sources say he did not) when he tweeted a couple of days ago that he might be thinking of “the possibility of the United States starting our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT!” because “CNN has a powerful voice portraying the United States in an unfair….and false way.” He did not mention VOA and his tweet referred to the possibility of starting something new.

In fact, when compared to Voice of America’s English-language content, VOA Persian-language output and VOA Chinese-language output, and other USAGM foreign language programs, CNN coverage, although far from perfect or objective, may in fact be much less unprofessional and less biased than VOA and other USAGM programming.

Greta Van Susteren alone cannot change the sorry state of the mismanaged and dysfunctional agency (Hillary Clinton called it “practically defunct.”)

What VOA and USAGM need is a complete change of leadership and a return to the respect for, and strict observance of, the VOA Charter.


This is how an internal memo described plans to arrange for a Voice of America Greta Van Susteren interview with President Trump at the G20 Summit in Argentina:


This is a draft “operational plan” for those traveling to cover the G20 Summit in Argentina, November 30-December 1.

The principal interview remains unconfirmed but still quite possible, aggravating yet arguably justifying the rationale for the staffing plan below.
Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” will produce elements for a full show to air the Wednesday following the summit. An interview with President Trump in Buenos Aires remains possible but has not been confirmed as of this writing. The resources in place for this interview will gather elements to fill her program before concentrating their effort on the “high profile” interview should it come to fruition. If the POTUS interview happens, it will be at the end of the summit.


President Trump has already given Greta Van Susteren one stand-up interview after the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting in Singapore. It is not known whether he knew at that time that Van Susteren was interviewing him for her VOA TV program which gets very little traction abroad or domestically. Hardly anyone outside of VOA knows that it exists. It is not Greta Van Susteren’s fault. Under feckless leaders over the last two decades, the Voice of America has lost its popularity, relevance and purpose. VOA English language programs in general have a very limited audience. Much of what audience they have is online in the United States even though the U.S. Congress does not want taxpayers’ money to be used to reach a domestic audience in the U.S., especially with highly biased and partisan programs. Unfortunately, very few members of Congress are paying attention.

One of the major problems with VOA is that it has become under Obama era appointees—VOA Director Amanda Bennett, her deputy Sandy Sugawara and USAGM CEO John Lansing—radically Left-wing partisan in violation of the 1976 U.S. law known as the VOA Charter which requires VOA to be completely balanced and fair.

Public partisan attacks by VOA staffers on the president’s wife and children were unheard of before the current leadership team took over the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) [the former name of the U.S. Agency for Global Media] in 2015 and 2016 and has not been replaced to this day.

Greta Van Susteren is an outstanding broadcaster and is not in any way responsible for any of these problems. The entire blame rests with Lansing, Bennett, Sugawara and some of the other USAGM and VOA executives who have tolerated some of VOA’s reporters and editors engaging in the most outrageous displays of extreme partisanship. Perhaps Michael Pack who has been nominated by president Trump to head USAGM and is still awaiting confirmation by the U.S. Senate can reform the Voice of America and the rest of the agency if he ever gets to do his job.

The Lansing-Bennett-Sugawara team has abundantly shown that it cannot reform anything, with or without help from Greta Van Susteren.

Meanwhile, some Democrats are worried that President Trump may try to politicize the Voice of America and the agency.

From what we have seen as of today, the administration has done nothing to move in that direction, while extreme partisanship going the other way has already reached alarming and unprecedented levels under Obama administration-appointed leaders who are still currently in charge of the agency and VOA.

If the same VOA reporters were streaming a sex joke about First Lady Michelle Obama during President Obama’s administration or posted online a video in which President Obama was called “a dog” and “a pig” without any counterbalance, as they did about Donald Trump, these agency leaders would have been long gone. And rightly so. It does not matter whether they serve a Democratic or a Republican administration. Such a lack of leadership and professionalism should not be tolerated under any circumstances.


1 comment
  1. BBG Watch correctly points out that Van Susteren’s presence at VOA is basically a ruse designed to gain more audience numbers. Bennett and Lansing basically brought her in, gave her a ‘contributor’ title, her own show (Plugged In), and allowed her to use her Twitter channel to promote USAGM and VOA programming, while she continues to voice personal opinions about everything under the sun. How can they lecture regular employees about watching what we say on social media, but provide leeway to one person? When does this arrive at a point where it defies VOA’s Charter and Journalistic Code? Do we make exceptions for celebrity volunteer anchors?

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