BBG – USAGM Watch Commentary

As of 3:00 AM Central European time, September 2, 2019, the U.S. tax-funded Voice of America (VOA) has ignored on its main VOA English-language news website and most of its foreign-language news websites the content of the speech delivered by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Warsaw the day before, September 1, on the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.

Voice of America also initially failed to report on its main news website that after the anniversary ceremonies Vice President Mike Pence had met in Warsaw Sunday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. At 3:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time, many hours after the Pence-Zelenskiy meeting, VOA posted a short Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) report on their talks.

The Office of the U.S. Vice President said much earlier that Mike Pence “conveyed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

At 7:51 AM Eastern Daylight Time, September 1, the Voice of America had posted on its English news website a poorly-written and incomplete Reuters news agency report from Poland. The Reuters’ report had nothing on Vice President Pence’s World War II anniversary speech. It also did not have any key details of the anniversary observances in Poland as it was written before they started. But when VOA posted the Reuters’ report, the ceremonies were already underway and Vice President Pence was delivering his speech.

During the entire day on Sunday, September 1, VOA did not update the Reuters’ report on its website with its own reporting on Pence’s speech. The Reuters’ report used by VOA also failed to mention that Russian President Putin was not invited to participate in the WWII anniversary events in Poland. A later report by VOA, also short and incomplete, mentioned briefly Putin’s absence but did not explain that Putin’s refusal to admit Stalin’s responsibility for starting the Second World War and Russia’s recent acts of military aggression against Georgia and Ukraine may have led to him being snubbed by Poland. Presidents of Georgia and Ukraine, Salome Zurabishvili and Volodymyr Zelenskiy, were invited to the ceremonies in Poland.

In what appeared to be a message to Russia, Vice President Pence said that “America and Poland will continue to stand with all of our allies for our common defense.” He added that “America and Poland will also continue to call on all our allies to live up to the promises that we’ve made to one another.”

The Voice of America had both a journalistic and statutory duty to report on Vice President Pence’s speech. To protect the integrity of VOA programming and define the organization’s mission, the VOA Charter was drafted in 1960 and later signed into law (Public Law 94-350) on July 12, 1976, by President Gerald Ford. One of the key provisions of the VOA Charter reads:

“VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.”

According to the Office of the U.S. Vice President, Pence started to deliver his speech at 1:39 PM Central European Time. This means that when VOA posted its Reuters’ report at 7:51 AM Eastern Daylight Time or 1:51 PM Central European Time, the Vice President was already making his remarks, which were not mentioned in the Reuters’ report posted on the VOA website or in a later report by VOA.

The Office of the Vice President released the full text of Pence’s speech to the media soon after it was delivered, but even that did not prompt the VOA English Newsroom to report on what he said in Warsaw.

VOA issued a slightly updated report at 6:29 PM Eastern Daylight Time to inform its audiences what the German President said during the anniversary ceremonies, but VOA again said nothing about Vice President Pence’s speech in Warsaw.

In the second report, VOA did even worse by repeating some of the false Russian propaganda claims without any challenge or correction. Quoting Russian officials, VOA reported that “One may have varying opinions on Soviet policy during the initial period of World War II, but it is impossible to deny the fact that it was the Soviet Union that routed Nazism, liberated Europe and saved European democracy.” VOA attributed this comment to a Russian Foreign Ministry tweet.

Had VOA reported in some detail on Vice President Pence’s speech in Poland, the false Russian propaganda claim that the Soviet Union “saved European democracy” would have been debunked.

Both BBC and Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) posted more detailed, more historically accurate and fully updated reports from Poland. BBC and DW reported that German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has asked Poland’s forgiveness for Nazi “tyranny”, 80 years on from the start of World War Two. BBC did not report on the content of Pence’s remarks, but its report provided a much more honest historical perspective and analysis of Russia’s role in World War II than did the outdated Reuters’ report used by VOA. DW summarized in its report some of the key points Vice President Pence’s speech in Warsaw.

The Reuters’ report, which VOA posted, seemed to blame the current Polish government for exploiting the history of World War II for current political gains but failed to note that Russian President Putin has been exploiting history for the last decade and has attempted to whitewash Stalin’s crimes and justify Russian aggression and occupation of parts of Georgia and Ukraine.

The Reuters’ report used by VOA was also somewhat vague as to how WWII started. It did not mention the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Hitler and Stalin signed on August 23, 1939. The Voice of America English news service had also ignored the recent 80th anniversary of the signing in Moscow of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

The Reuters’ report used by VOA on September 1 and the VOA report issued later in the day also did not mention the September 17, 1939 Soviet attack on Poland under the secret terms of the Nazi-Soviet alliance which led to the outbreak of World War II. And while the Reuters’ report used by VOA mentioned in one sentence that Poland suffered decades of Soviet domination, it failed to disclose that the Soviet takeover of Poland was facilitated by the Yalta Agreement signed with Stalin during the war by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill without the knowledge and participation of the allied Polish government-in-exile whose soldiers fought the Germans alongside American and British soldiers during the war.

The Reuters’ report used by VOA and a later VOA report also did not mention Soviet crimes against hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens, including the mass murder by the Soviets in 1940 of about 22,000 Polish military officers and intellectual leaders in the so-called Katyn Forest Massacre. During World War II, pro-Soviet Voice of America journalists, including future Stalin Peace Prize winner, American Communist Howard Fast who in 1942-1943 was VOA’s chief news writer and news director, covered up such Soviet crimes and advanced Soviet propaganda. It took several years for VOA to reform its programs and to shake off Soviet propaganda during the early period of the Cold War.

Some of the historical facts, which are now being distorted by Russian propaganda, were clearly, accurately and effectively mentioned and explained in Vice President Mike Pence’s speech in Warsaw. The Voice of America under the dysfunctional leadership of VOA Director Amanda Bennett, her deputy Sandy Sugawara and their boss, U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) CEO John F. Lansing, chose to ignore Vice President Pence’s speech on the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War.

These three top executives, incidentally appointed to their U.S. government jobs during the Obama administration, are blamed by critics for substandard performance and multiple scandals. According to critics, the scope and number of scandals since 2015 have been without precedence in the agency’s history. In one reported potential scandal, VOA and USAGM officials are said to be stalling providing answers to American journalists whether the Voice of America has hired and continues to employ a TV journalist who in the past had produced anti-U.S. propaganda videos for Russian TV filled with conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic themes.

In another already confirmed scandal, USAGM CEO John Lansing’s former righthand man and chief strategic advisor, Dr. Haroon Ullah, has pled guilty recently to federal charges of steeling tens of thousands of dollars from the agency. To our knowledge no U.S. public diplomacy and international broadcasting agency chief until now had hired a senior deputy who was later charged with fraud while serving in a key agency position directly under the agency’s director.

Ignoring a speech by the U.S. Vice President on important foreign policy issues with regard to a key NATO ally and with possible repercussions for U.S. policy toward Russia is one of many recent failures under the current agency leaders.



The White House
Office of the Vice President
September 1, 2019

Piłsudski Square
Warsaw, Poland

1:39 P.M. CEST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: President Duda, President Steinmeier, other presidents, prime ministers, and heads of state, distinguished guests, and most of all, the noble citizens of Poland: It is an honor to be here, on behalf of the President of the United States and all of the American people, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.

Two years ago, President Donald Trump came to this very city and spoke of the remarkable bond between the American people and the people of Poland, saying, in his words, “America loves Poland, and America loves the Polish people.” (Applause.)

And today, as Vice President of the United States, it’s my great honor to stand here today, on behalf of the American people, including nearly 10 million Polish-Americans, in a Poland that is safe, strong, and free. (Applause.)

As the President said that day in Krasiński Square, “The story of Poland is the story of a people who…never lost hope, who have never been broken…who have never, ever forgotten who they are.”

Today, in the heart of Warsaw, standing humbly before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we’ve gathered to bear witness to the courage of a great people, to the spirit of a great nation, and to the profound and lasting strength of a great civilization.

While the hearts of every American are with our fellow citizens in the path of a massive storm, today we remember how the gathering storm of the 20th century broke into warfare and invasion, followed by unspeakable hardship and heroism shown of the Polish people.

During the five decades of untold struggle and suffering that followed the outbreak of World War II, the Polish people never lost hope, you never gave in to despair, and you never let go of your thousand-year history.

In the years that followed this day 80 years ago, your light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

The character, faith, and determination of the Polish people made all the difference. It would, in time, turn shattering defeat into glorious victory.

It is difficult for any of us who are not Poles to fathom the horrors that began here 80 years ago, on the 1st of September 1939.

Within weeks, the armies of Nazi Germany from the West, and the communist Soviet Union from the East, divided up this country into occupation zones. The maniacal Nazi leader issued the command for “the physical destruction of the enemy” and ordered the “mercilessly and without compassion” death of Polish men, women, and children.

Those dual invasions marked the beginning of a conflict unlike anything the world had ever known before, and one we resolve here today the world will never know again. (Applause.)
In just over four years, one in five Polish citizens would be murdered at the hands of an evil ideology bent on racial conquest and authoritarian rule.

The Nazis systematically murdered 90 percent of Poland’s more than 3 million Jews. Tens of thousands of brave patriots of the Polish resistance would be killed in the fight against the occupation of their homeland. Over 21,000 Polish sons and daughters were massacred at the hands of the communists in April 1940, in the Katyn forest, and buried in mass graves.

And right here in this city, more than 150,000 Polish men, women, and children gave their lives in just nine weeks of the Warsaw Uprising — an uprising which was followed by the deliberate and total destruction of this city by German forces, while Soviet forces stood by and allowed the slaughter.

Those who rose up died fighting to liberate these bloodstained streets from fascism, dictatorship, and the looming menace of communism. But as President Trump said two years ago, “There is a courage and a strength deep in the Polish character that no one could destroy.” (Applause.)

And today we remember the long roll call of Polish heroes who fought for freedom in those dark days. Their names and the memory of their heroism will be enshrined in the hearts of their people and freedom-loving people forever.

The long and terrible war started here in Poland. But before long, that death struggle with totalitarianism involved the fates and compelled the extraordinary sacrifice of freedom-loving nations across the world.

So today, we also remember the 16 million Americans who left the peace and comfort of their home to fight to liberate Europe. They stood against evil. And over 400,000 young American men, including thousands of Polish Americans, gave their last full measure of devotion for their country and the peoples of nations they did not know. Today, I remember my countrymen and their sacrifices with honor and gratitude.

Today we remember the millions of brave and sturdy British citizens who served and sacrificed to save Europe, defend their sovereignty, their liberty, and their beloved Kingdom.

So too we recall the incredible patriots of the French resistance — the Dutch, the Danish, the Belgians, the Czechs, the Greeks, the Romanians, and so many other underground movements and freedom fighters who entered history as legends of courage, and they demonstrated a selflessness that will be remembered for the ages.

But none fought with more valor, or determination, or righteous fury than the Poles. And in their decades-long struggle against tyranny, Poland proved itself a homeland of heroes. (Applause.)

As we remember the war that began here on Polish soil eight decades ago, we do well to pause and reflect on the causes of so great a conflagration.

The fight against the twisted ideologies of Nazism and Communism reflected the eternal struggle between right and wrong, good and evil. They were driven by an ancient and wicked urge to claim power by any means and impose their will to control the lives of ordinary men and women. All morality became socialist morality. Whatever served the power of the state became justified — even murder on an unprecedented scale.

But when we think of the depravity of totalitarianism, of the death squads, the concentration camps, the secret police, the state propaganda, the destruction of churches, and the endless hostility to people of faith, one cannot help but think of the words of another who lived under Soviet totalitarianism, the Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Pondering the ruinous times in which he lived, Solzhenitsyn reflected, and I quote, “If I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century…I would be unable to find anything more precise…than this: Men have forgotten God.”

Those who sought to remake the world by force did not have the last word, because there was something greater at work.

Through the brutality of war and through “four decades of communist rule,” as President Trump said two years ago in this city, “Poland and the other captive nations of Europe endured a…campaign to demolish your freedom…your laws, your history, your identity,” and your faith.” “Yet…you never lost that spirit. Your oppressors tried to break you, but Poland could not be broken.” (Applause.)

In June 1979, one of Poland’s greatest sons returned home as Pope John Paul II. History records that in this very square he preached that the Polish people could not understand their history or their future apart from the greatest source of their strength and goodness.

The Holy Father’s visit caused a “revolution of conscience” throughout the land. Within 16 months, Solidarity became the first officially recognized free trade union in the Communist bloc. And the momentum of those nine days would eventually lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. (Applause.)

But on that day, in this place, Pope John Paul II said that, Man cannot understand “who he is, nor what his true dignity is, nor what his vocation is, nor what his final end is…without Christ.” (Applause.)

And when the Holy Father spoke those words, the millions of Poles gathered here fearlessly spoke for their nation and their history. Lifting their voices, they sang: “We want God. We want God.” And their voices echoed across this nation and around the world.

A memorial cross to honor that historic moment stands before us today just opposite the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is a symbol of Polish faith but also of Polish hope and resolve. It is a permanent testimony to the belief of the Polish people that true solidarity among people and among nations is only possible when that solidarity is seen in the light of a providential Creator.

Today, we are gathered as friends, as allies, from more than 40 countries, representatives of freedom-loving nations. Today, the fates of our people are linked by a shared love of freedom and self-determination.

So let us, on this day, resolve that the words heard in this square that unraveled that long night of oppression, not just for the people of Poland, but all across Eastern Europe — let us resolve that those words and truths that have sustained human freedom from the very beginning will never be forgotten.

America and Poland will continue to stand with all of our allies for our common defense. And America and Poland will also continue to call on all our allies to live up to the promises that we’ve made to one another. For the American people and the Polish people “know that a strong alliance of free, sovereign and independent nations is the best defense [of] our freedoms” now and always. (Applause.)

So thank you for the honor of representing our President and the American people on this historic occasion as we mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.

Today, we remember those that were lost in Poland, in their long twilight struggle, and all of those who sacrificed from my nation and nations represented here to win a victory for freedom. We remember those that were lost on this day, but we also do well to celebrate — to celebrate an enduring victory for freedom and the role that the people of Poland played by their strength and their example.

As President Trump said here in Warsaw two years ago, America never gave up on the “freedom and independence of the Polish people, and we will never will.” (Applause.)

And, on this occasion, if any should doubt that the destiny of mankind is freedom, let them look to Poland, to the courageous Polish people, and see for themselves the indomitable spirit, strength, and resilience of freedom-loving people standing on a foundation of faith.

Through their decades-long struggle, their courage and faith shone forth, you prove again, here in Poland and for all the world, that though it may take decades, that “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (Applause.)

Having paid tribute to the past, we now look to the future. And with the inspiration, courage, and resolve of the Polish people, from this day forward, I can assure you that Poland, America, and all freedom-loving nations in the world will meet that future together.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless Poland. And may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

END 2:01 P.M. CEST


Office of the Vice President
August 27, 2019
Readout of Vice President Mike Pence’s Meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine

The Vice President met today with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine in Warsaw, Poland, following the Ceremony of the 80th Anniversary of the Outbreak of World War II. The Vice President conveyed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. He commended President Zelenskyy for his government’s efforts to introduce bold reform legislation to combat corruption and improve the business climate to encourage foreign investment. The leaders also discussed recent progress toward securing Ukraine’s energy independence.