BBG Watch Commentary
U.S. taxpayer-funded ($224 million FY 2017) Voice of America (VOA), managed by the vast bureaucracy ($777 million FY 2017, including VOA) Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) had a double failure to live up to its VOA Charter (U.S. Public Law) by not reporting in its English-language news service on President Trump’s message to Lithuania on NATO and by posting online strongly one-sided Lithuania-related reports from Reuters that failed to explain adequately or at all the Trump administration’s foreign policy positions.
Perhaps the most blatant recent attempt by VOA editors to use Reuters to bypass the VOA Charter requirements was a recent Reuters report posted on the VOA News website, which was in fact a one-sided speculative commentary, “Super Bowl Security Tight Amidst Tension Over Trump Orders,” which implied in the headline that security at the Super Bowl football game was tight because of President Trump. Even some of the report’s content contradicted its headline. VOA did nothing to counter the idea that President Trump might be somehow responsible for any future terrorist attacks.
Some VOA Newsroom and other VOA reporters and editors have shown their personal political bias by using various epithets, such as “Joke,” “Disgrace,” “F*ckface Von Clownstick” and other similar names to describe Donald Trump at public events, in social media, and in actual VOA content.
SEE: BBG CEO ‘greatest respect’ for President belied by Voice of America Trump epithets, BBG Watch, February 12, 2017.
After these incidents have been revealed by BBG Watch but not publicized by mainstream media, BBG CEO John Lansing made an incredulous remark in an NPR interview:
BBG CEO JOHN F. LANSING ON NPR HEARD ON MORNING EDITION, FEBRUARY 10, 2017: “It’s our job is to report all sides of a story and we have the greatest respect for whoever is the President, and their point of view is something that’s newsworthy and we report that.”
In fact, some VOA reporters, editors, managers and executives have shown an appalling lack of respect for President Trump. It should be noted that many of their current and former colleagues, both supporters and critics of Donald Trump, disapprove of such conduct by journalists. We don’t want VOA reporters and editors to refrain from reporting on legitimate criticism of President Trump. We don’t want VOA to defend the administration in a one-sided manner, but to present all the facts and balancing opinions. Under the VOA Charter, Voice of America content must be fair and balanced. VOA must also present U.S. policies clearly and effectively. On the Trump-Lithuania-NATO story, VOA News failed on almost all counts.
John Lansing and VOA Director Amanda Bennett, who have both advocated for greater use of wire services by VOA, need to understand that Reuters is not required to follow the VOA Charter. These BBG and VOA executives have no prior experience in public diplomacy or running a federal government organization.
Reuters is not neutral on Donald Trump. As noted by Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School, in his commentary in The Washington Post, “Chill, America. Not every Trump outrage is outrageous.,” “Reuters recently issued guidance on covering the Trump administration the same way its reporters cover authoritarian regimes around the world.”
This weekend, the Voice of America English news service failed to report online that President Trump “has congratulated Lithuania on the upcoming independence anniversary, thanking for its support to Ukraine and commending for the growing defense spending.”
It took VOA’s Russian Service two days to report on President Trump’s letter, which was dated February 8. Ironically, even the Russian Service did not produce its own VOA report on President Trump’s letter but translated a report from Reuters. The main VOA News website had nothing original on the story in English and did not even post the Reuters report on Trump’s letter.
As reported by the English-language newspaper The Baltic Times and many other media, in a letter to Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite, President Trump defined Lithuania as “a leader in promoting democracy and strengthening the trans-Atlantic community.”
“Your support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as your efforts to increase energy diversification, advance our shared goal of enhancing European and regional security,” said the US president.
Reuters did in fact have a report on President Trump’s letter to Lithuania’s president, but VOA English News failed to use it or to write its own, as it should have done.
Two recent Lithuania-NATO-related reports from Reuters used by VOA did not mention President Trump’s letter and included a number of assertions about U.S. policies and NATO that required further explanations, and in some cases balancing content that VOA is required by its Charter to provide.
The Reuters report, “NATO Troops Deploy in Lithuania, Underscoring Commitment to Defense,” posted online by VOA News includes a sentence that Moscow denies accusations that “it is supporting a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.” The Reuters report used by VOA failed to provide any counter to this Kremlin propaganda lie.
The Reuters report used by VOA also quotes a NATO official as saying that a major NATO exercise in eastern Europe in June would include “a simulated nuclear attack.” Reuters did not elaborate whether it might be a simulated nuclear attack on the Baltic states or a response to an attack by Russia. The Voice of America is required to provide this kind of critical detail. That is why U.S. taxpayers pay for it. But in this case, and in many similar instances when the Voice of America uses wire service reports instead of writing its own, VOA did not do its job according to its congressional legal mandate. If there were a real conflict with Russia in which there was a threat of nuclear weapons being used, such lack of responsibility by VOA could have serious consequences.
Some Voice of America journalists continue to reinforce Russian propaganda stereotypes. A VOA Russian Service reporter reposted on Facebook a French Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing President Trump contemplating choices on a drink dispensing machine: “Expresso,” “Chocolat Chaud,” “Cafe Sans Sucre,” and in biggest letters next to a button, “BOMBE H,” a reference to a nuclear bomb.
The second Reuters report used by VOA News, “Report: Moscow Sees Threat in NATO Deployment,” was even more one-sided. This Reuters report on VOA News quoted only Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov as saying: “For the first time since World War Two we see German soldiers along our borders.”
There was no reminder from Reuters and VOA in this report that for the first time since World War Two, Russia has invaded and occupied parts of territories of other sovereign nations.
February 8, 2017
Dear Madam President:
The American people join me in sending congratulations to you and all Lithuanians on the 99th anniversary of Lithuania’s independence February 16.
Lithuania is a leader in promoting democracy and strengthening the transatlantic community. Your support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as your efforts to increase energy diversification, advance our shared goal to enhance European and regional security.
Lithuania is a valued NATO Ally that leads by example through your commitment to our shared defense, as evidenced by increasing your defense spending to achieve NATO’s agreed benchmark. In addition, Lithuania’s contributions to joint efforts in Afghanistan and to countering ISIS further demonstrate its commitment to advancing global security.
The United States is proud to call Lithuania a friend and Ally. I look forward to working with you to advance our shared goals.
Donald J. Trump