BBG Watch Commentary

U.S. taxpayer-funded ($224M FY 2017) Voice of America (VOA) continues to post what can only be described as hit pieces on U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and his nominees to cabinet and White House positions.

Not all of Voice of America news reports are one-sided and biased (VOA still has a few excellent journalists reporting in an objective and fair manner), but one of VOA’s latest, Fast-Food Baron, Critic of High Wages, Tapped as Trump’s Labor Secretary,” posted online by VOA News on December 9, uses a tabloid headline and content to repeatedly attack Donald Trump’s nominee for the Labor Secretary without presenting both sides of important economic and policy issues.

One former Voice of America journalist who saw the report and is concerned about the decline of journalistic standards at VOA, sent us this comment:

FORMER VOA JOURNALIST: “No, he is a critic of the … $15 an hour wage for restaurants, including the kids who work fast-food, which will put their employers out of business. So, they [employers] bring in the robots … and most of the people lose their jobs. The controversy over this ‘high wages’ issue should have been discussed in the piece.
Baron….. he could have been described in many other different ways. And perhaps [this was] a subtle snarky jab at the young Trump’s name? Hear snickering in the background as they write the headline. … And if a different CEO [current BBG CEO is John F. Lansing] comes in that tries to stop this cra*, this will be the most monstrous bureaucratic battle royale of all. If I were 20 years younger, would love to be part of the group that says ‘bring it on’.”



READ: Fast-Food Baron, Critic of High Wages, Tapped as Trump’s Labor Secretary, VOA News, December 9, 2016

The VOA report on Donald Trump’s Labor Secretary nominee is consistently critical of every position or action Andrew Puzder has taken without trying to explain that economists and Americans in general have differing views on such issues as the minimum wage and its impact on employment, particularly among the low-skilled and semi-skilled workers.

Donald Trump penis GIF - a screenshot from a Voice of America reporter's personal but publicly accessible Facebook page.
Donald Trump penis GIF – a screenshot from a Voice of America reporter’s personal but publicly accessible Facebook page.
Donald Trump with Nazi swastika GIF - a screenshot from a Voice of America reporter's personal but publicly accessible Facebook page.
Donald Trump with Nazi swastika GIF – a screenshot from a Voice of America reporter's personal but publicly accessible Facebook page.

Some VOA reporters appear to have a strong personal bias against Donald Trump and the Republican Party, which some — not all — don’t even try to hide in their reporting. A few VOA journalists have posted obscene memes and comments about Trump on their Facebook pages. While these are their private Facebook pages, they are, however, accessible to the public, and they identify themselves on Facebook as Voice of America employees. Their salaries are paid for by all U.S. taxpayers, including those who have voted for Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States.

READ: Voice of America should stick to journalism, stop one-sided name-calling in reports on Donald Trump, BBG Watch, November 15, 2016


ALSO READ: Voice of America and 2016 Vote – Unprecedented Bias, Partisanship, and Sloppiness UPDATE, BBG Watch, November 8, 2016.

Other VOA reporters, however, can be objective, even if they personally don’t like Donald Trump or do agree with his political, economic and social agenda. For example, VOA’s report, Exxon Chief Tillerson Emerges as Lead Contender for US Secretary of State on Sunday was balanced and objective, unlike some of the other VOA news reports about Donald Trump and his cabinet nominees. Legitimate concerns and criticism of Mr. Rex Tillerson over his dealings with Russia and Vladimir Putin are balanced with other statements and comments.

VOA management, headed by director Amanda Bennett and deputy director Sandy Sugawara, was so sure Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 presidential election that on November 8 it had not just one but two already pre-written “Clinton Wins” VOA programs, and none for the possibility of Donald Trump’s win. By the way, when she was Secretary of State and herself a BBG Board member, Hillary Clinton had called the Broadcasting Board of Governors “practically defunct.”

In a note to staff the day after the election, Ms. Bennett did not say who won the U.S. Presidency and did not mention Donald Trump’s name. According to some VOA ex-employees, no other VOA director has issued a note to staff after past U.S. presidential elections in which the next U.S. President’s name was not mentioned.

Earlier in the campaign period, Ms. Bennett highly praised in a note to staff a VOA video interview, which in violation of the VOA Charter, included a one-sided attack on Trump and his immigration policy without adding any countervailing views or responses. In the same note to staff, Ms. Bennett expressed her strong support for the VOA Charter, which expressly forbids one-sided reporting in Voice of America programs.

Bernie Sanders was also a target of one-sided attacks in Voice of America programs. Even Senate Democratic leader, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) found himself a target of an unsubstantiated smear in a VOA report.

In a truly blatant violation of thA recent VOA news report called Stephen Bannon, Trump’s campaign chief executive, “a populist, hard-right insurgent.”, while in other VOA reports, Democratic Party activists, John Podesta, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile, were identified only by their titles as chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, and chairperson or acting chairperson of the Democratic National Committee.

VOA has not referred to Brazile or any other Clinton supporter as a “hard-left,” “insurgent” or any other similar name. No labels of any kind against Brazile were used in VOA reports even when in violation of journalistic ethics she shared questions with Clinton’s campaign staff for a CNN-sponsored debate.

VOA also called Breitbart “an anti-establishment platform that occasionally has been home to white nationalist and anti-Semitic vitriol”, but did not ask Breitbart for a response or provide any examples. Contrary to such an accusation from VOA, much of Breitbart content appears strongly pro-Israel.

At the very least the Voice of America should have checked The Hill, a popular Washington political website, which published Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s defense of Breitbart and Stephen Bannon, before editorializing on its own in a VOA news report. The Washington Post, with which both VOA director Amanda Bennett and VOA deputy director Sandy Sugawara, had professional links before joining VOA, called Rabbi Shmuley Boteach “the most famous rabbi in America.”

Perhaps for the sake of balance, and as is it required by the VOA Charter, the Voice of America should have mentioned a few of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s comments in what is presented as a VOA news report but is in fact a one-sided commentary against Stephen Bannon and Breitbart.

In a blatant violation of the VOA Charter during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, a VOA language service translated and posted on social media a Hollywood actor’s video attacking Trump and calling him “dog,” “pig” and similar offensive names. In this case, the Voice of America also did not seek or present any response or defense from Trump supporters. The VOA management eventually removed the video, but only after protests were raised by internal and outside critics.



The Voice of America should by all means continue to report valid criticism of President-elect Donald Trump and his cabinet choices, but VOA needs to stop posting one-sided, un-balanced accusations, stop resorting to name-calling, and stop using editorializing labels in its news reports about him and his future cabinet.







Fast-Food Baron, Critic of High Wages, Tapped as Trump’s Labor Secretary | VOA News

December 09, 2016 8:15 AM
VOA News
[AP Photo Used By VOA Not Reposted Here]  
President-elect Donald Trump walks with CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder from Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Andrew Puzder, a wealthy businessman, a lawyer and an elite donor to Trump’s campaign, to become the next Labor Secretary, pending Senate confirmation.
Puzder is the head of CKE Restaurants Holdings, the parent company of Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s fast food restaurants and other chains.
According to the Labor Department’s website, the mission of the agency is “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.”
Critics say Puzder’s public comments often do not coincide with Labor’s stated mission. He has been highly critical of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and new rules enabling more workers to receive overtime pay.
He is also not a fan of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that has provided health insurance to millions who were previously uninsured, and is instead favors repealing the law.
Puzder has expressed his admiration for automated technology that he says business owners will have to turn to if they are forced to pay a substantially increased minimum wage, mandatory paid sick leave and health insurance for employees.
He told Business Insider financial news site last year that machines are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or (sic) an age, sex or race discrimination case.”
[AP Photo Used By VOA Not Reposted Here]  
CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder speaks at a news conference on Aug. 6, 2014 in Austin, Texas to highlight Carl’s Jr.’s commitment to the state of Texas.
Law practice
While practicing law in St. Louis, Puzder helped write and pass in 1986 the Missouri law declaring life begins at conception, which had the effect of banning most abortions at public facilities. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law in 1989 in a decision known as Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services.
There he met Carl Karcher, the founder of Carl’s Jr., who was in serious financial trouble. Karcher asked Puzder to move to California to be his personal attorney. Puzder moved to Orange County, California, and in 1991 resolved Karcher’s financial problems. Puzder went on to lead the company in 2000. The company now has 3,750 locations in 44 states and 40 countries and U.S. territories, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company has about 75,000 employees in the U.S. and almost 100,000 worldwide, with sales topping $4.3 billion.
Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. have come under fire for their commercials featuring scantily clad women. “I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis,” he said. “I think it’s very American.”
[AP Photo Used By VOA Not Reposted Here]  
Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Hannah Ferguson, left, orders lunch along side CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder after a news conference on Aug. 6, 2014 in Austin, Texas
Active in politics
Puzder has long been a reliable Republican Party donor. He was a major financier for 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney and has remained close to him. At Romney’s annual donor summit in June, Puzder was one of a few attendees who aggressively promoted Trump to the dozens who were more squeamish about their party’s new star.
He was one of Trump’s earliest campaign financiers, serving as a co-chairman of his California finance team and organizing fundraisers well before most major donors got on board with the eventual Republican nominee. Together with his wife, Puzder contributed $150,000 in late May to Trump’s campaign and Republican Party partners, fundraising records show.
He told The Associated Press at the Republican National Convention in late July that he enjoyed the challenge of raising money for Trump, saying he often sought common ground with reluctant Republican Party donors by talking up Trump’s children.
“If he’s such an evil villain,” Puzder said he would tell would-be donors, “how do you explain the kids?”
Puzder has six children and six grandchildren and lives with his second wife, Dee, in Franklin, Tennessee, according to his blog.