USAGM Watch Commentary

Several former Voice of America (VOA) senior reporters and managers, who retired several years ago and follow events at the federal entity managing U.S. international broadcasting, report that as of 5:00 PM / 2100 UTC on 13 June, VOA was still not seen to have posted any story on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) report on U.S. Agency for Global Media’s (USAGM) failure to adequately investigate serious abuses of power by senior USAGM executives and false credentials of employees within USAGM.  

[UPDATE] Voice of America Newsroom reporters alerted USAGM Watch that an order may have been issued to a VOA reporter to write a VOA news story on the HFAC report on corruption within USAGM’s and VOA’s senior management, but as of 6:50 PM Friday, 14 June, no story about the scandal appears on the VOA English News website. The story broke shortly after midnight on Wednesday, June 12 and was almost immediately reported by the Washington Times and National Review. VOA finally posted a news report June 14, 2024 at 7:30 PM EDT, “McCaul raises concerns over USAGM ability to vet staff.”]

The House Foreign Affairs Committee report is highly critical of USAGM CEO and former VOA Director Amanda Bennett and her key aide Kelu Chao, but the criticism is not described in any meaningful detail in the delayed VOA English news report posted nearly three days after Congressman McCaul and U.S. private sector media made public the results of the congressional investigation of USAGM.

At midnight on Wednesday, 12 June, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) issued a report, accusing senior USAGM executives of having allowed a culture of corruption at the $1-billion federal agency in charge of U.S. government-funded media outreach abroad. Chairman McCaul said that the committee’s findings confirm “longstanding security concerns about the agency.”

In recent years, USAGM hired several former propagandists of Russian state media under Vladimir Putin to work for VOA’s Russian Service.

A Spanish-Russian VOA freelance reporter was expelled from Ukraine and arrested in Poland in February 2022 on suspicion of conducting espionage for Russia and spying on Russian dissident journalists working in the West – charges the VOA freelancer denies through his lawyer who also represented Edward Snowden, an American spy hiding in Russia. VOA executives, editors, and reporters were not aware that their freelancer’s legal defender worked as a lawyer for Edward Snowden.

The latest allegations against USAGM managers were reported by the Washington Times, National Review, and other U.S. media on the conservative side but not by the Washington Post or the New York Times. As reported by the Washington Times, USAGM CEO Amanda Bennett Ms. Bennett accused the authors of the committee report of “callous attempts to malign hardworking civil servants.”

VOA English newsroom editors are often praised by Bennett and her deputy as defenders of press freedom.

An earlier report by National Review correspondent Jimmy Quinn described a GOP attempt to limit funding for USAGM to force its senior management to address corruption issues.

As reported by former senior VOA reporters and managers, the Voice of America English news website had no mention of Chairman McCaul’s report on “culture of corruption at USAGM” before Friday, June 14, 2024, 7:30 PM EDT.

VOA did post a story, ironically quoting Rep. McCaul, about something completely unrelated to the HFAC report.  It’s a sad irony that the quote of Rep. McCaul in that story talks about how “U.S. companies should not censor content. . .”  VOA as of the time of this update, had withheld from its own audiences/users, including those in China where USAGM/VOA claim(s) to have growing traction, any VOA story on the HFAC report.

An embarrassment for USAGM, which refers to itself as a “networked global media agency” and which the agency CEO has begun referring to as a “public service” media company, has chosen not to perform a public service for its audiences in this case.  The agency did include the HFAC statement in its Media Clips internal email distribution — again, internal consumption only!  VOA’s global audiences are not in the need-to-know category.

Under the watch of the current USAGM and VOA leadership, Voice of America journalists posted anti-Israel content to Facebook and posted images on their personal Facebook pages calling for a violent destruction of Israel.

An image calling for the destruction of Israel posted on a personal Facebook page by a Voice of America (VOA) journalist and U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) employee after the October 7, 2023 Hamas terrorist attack on Jewish civilians.

Chairman McCaul Releases Report on Culture of Corruption at USAGM