BBG Watch Commentary

VOA Sikorski Search Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 11.43AM EDT
VOA Sikorski Search Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 11.43AM EDT

While international media has been full of reports for many days on leaked tapes of private conversations of Polish politicians in which Poland’s foreign minister Radek Sikorski is reportedly heard as saying that “the Polish-US alliance isn’t worth anything,” U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) has not reported online on the scandal.

A search of the VOA English news website has produced zero results on the story. It also appears that no VOA language service has reported online on Sikorski’s alleged complaints about the United States as Poland’s ally.

According to a BBC report posted online on June 23, which quoted excerpts of recorded private conversations, “Mr Sikorski told former Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski at a restaurant in Warsaw early this year that ‘the Polish-US alliance isn’t worth anything’.”

BBC reported that “using vulgar language, he [Sikorski] compared Polish subservience to the US to giving oral sex. He also warned that such a stance would cause ‘conflict with the Germans, Russians’.”

According to BBC and other media reports, Mr. Sikorski “also used a racially loaded term to describe the Polish stance – ‘murzynskosc’, which suggests a slave mentality.”

“[We are] suckers, total suckers. The problem in Poland is that we have shallow pride and low self-esteem,” Mr Sikorski was quoted as saying.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski told reporters on Monday that the US was a “very important ally and partner”.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined to comment on the authenticity of the tapes. “But more broadly, the United States and Poland have an incredibly strong relationship…that’s based on shared values,” she said.

The Voice of America failed to report on these statements despite its VOA Charter (U.S. Public Law 94-350) obligation to “present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and … also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.”

The Voice of America has left Russia’s RT to report on the scandal in U.S.-Polish relations and to offer international Moscow’s interpretation of this news event rather than to present U.S. responses.

Some experts speculate that Russian security services may have been involved in either secretly taping private conversations of Polish politicians or in publicizing these recordings.

Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) reported Sikorski as saying: “The government was attacked by an organized crime group.” “We don’t yet know who stands behind it,” Sikorski said Monday in Luxembourg as reported by DW.

READ: Polish FM’s oral sex comment on US ‘shows his political realism’ – Moscow, RT, June 23, 2014.

READ: Komorowski, Tusk and Sikorski try to fix Poland-US mess, Deutsche Welle, June 23, 2014.

Nothing from the Voice of America. Critics say that VOA has suffered a management meltdown and its news reporting is completely dysfunctional.


State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf
State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf

These comments by U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf at the daily press briefing on Monday, June 23, 2014, were not reported or even mentioned online by the Voice of America.

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
Monday, June 23, 2014

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing (U.S.-Poland Excerpt)

MS. HARF: Yes. Poland.

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you, Marie.

MS. HARF: If I had to guess.

QUESTION: Marie, one of the weekly magazines in Poland published audio tapes with conversations of high-ranking government officials, and on one of the tapes a person identified as Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski is saying the Polish-American alliance isn’t worth anything, is even harmful because it creates a false sense of security for Poland. So is this true? What’s your comment on this?

MS. HARF: Well, I can’t comment on alleged tapes. I can’t confirm their authenticity or background. I’m just not in a position to verify that. But more broadly, the United States and Poland have an incredibly strong relationship. You saw recently the Secretary certainly has been there, has been meeting, including with the foreign minister. And this is a relationship based on shared values. It remains strong. It’s a key part of our alliances in that part of the world. And the crisis in Ukraine, I think, has made that even more the case, where we’re confronting a shared threat together. So I can’t comment on the authenticity of the tapes, but I know that the Secretary and the foreign minister have a very good relationship and we’ll continue to have one with Poland.

QUESTION: Are you still willing to work with Mr. Sikorski —

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: — after comments like this?

MS. HARF: Again, I can’t verify the authenticity of these comments – excuse me. But absolutely, we have a very strong relationship with the foreign minister.

QUESTION: In addition to the Secretary’s visit, I believe the President —

MS. HARF: President, yes, yes, yes.

QUESTION: — was actually there not so long ago.

MS. HARF: At the same time.

QUESTION: Yeah, indeed.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The question, though, is: Have – are you aware of hearing – of people hearing this kind of sentiment in conversations with Polish officials?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. As I said, I mean, quite frankly, we have a very strong relationship with Poland, had a really good visit there with the President, as you mentioned, and the Secretary.

QUESTION: Regardless of whether it was Mr. Sikorski saying this on the tape or not, you would disagree with the comments whoever was —

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: — whoever was speaking?

MS. HARF: Whoever said those comments.

QUESTION: Whoever said it was wrong, right? Can I ask you —

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: — why?

MS. HARF: Because we have a very strong relationship that’s based on shared values. Again, I mentioned Ukraine. All you have to do is look at the crisis in Ukraine and how we’re consulting and working with all of our allies, including Poland, to confront this threat together. So I think that just underscores how important NATO is, how important all of our partners are there.

QUESTION: So you would – better go to someone else because I can’t —

MS. HARF: Okay, Lucas.

QUESTION: — I can’t frame this question correctly.