BBG – USAGM Watch Commentary

By Ted Lipien

Conservative African American activist Candace Owens (Photo by Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons), who defends President Trump, has been ignored by the Voice of America (VOA). The U.S. tax-funded VOA has been promoting instead African American Communist Angela Davis, as well as posting one sided anti-Trump campaign videos in violation of U.S. laws and VOA’s own Journalistic Code.

The VOA Charter, which is U.S. law, says that taxpayer-funded and U.S. government-managed Voice of America “will represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.” The VOA Charter also mandates that “VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.”

It was not a surprise to me, but U.S. taxpayers–Republicans, Independents and mainstream Democrats–may want to know that when it comes to reporting news, some VOA executives, managers, editors and reporters have been ignoring the VOA Charter by favoring Angela Davis, an African American Communist, over a conservative African American Republican Party activist Candace Owens.

In fact, Candace Owens has never been mentioned on the VOA English News website even when she recently appeared before a congressional committee. Mainstream American media, including some of the most liberal newspapers and television networks, did report on her appearance on Capital Hill during which she criticized the Democratic Party and the liberal media while describing how her family was a victim of hate crimes in the past and a recent attack on her by extreme left-wing Antifa activists.

The video of her congressional appearance, which I found through Google search, has been created by a CSPAN user. Parts of it appeared in many U.S. media news reports. The Voice of America, however, had nothing on her criticism of the Democratic Party and the liberal parts of the U.S. media. Even though VOA News had a report on the hate crimes hearing on Capitol Hill, it did not mention her name, did not refer to her appearance, and did not use the video with her remarks in the report posted on the VOA website.

The Voice of America should by all means report all accurate news, including those which reflect negatively on President Trump, and quote responsible opinions of his critics. But VOA must also report American news and opinions of responsible individuals and organizations who are defending him and his policies. VOA should not engage in selective censorship of the voices of conservative African Americans because they question what the liberal parts of the U.S. media think about Donald Trump.





Candace Owens’ name has been a taboo on the VOA English News website. It has not been mentioned even once, while the same VOA website made references to the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) 146 times, most often in support of the argument that racism has been growing in the United States because of President Trump and his supporters. By comparison, the VOA website had only 27 references to the conservative Judicial Watch advocacy group which has often criticized SPLC research. Even liberal media published criticism of SPLC data on hate crimes in the U.S., but not VOA which continued to use it even after it was discredited. Most of VOA’s references to Judicial Watch have been negative. Almost all VOA references to SPLC presented organization and its research in a positive light without identifying it as left-wing or tainted with any scandal. On the other hand, VOA almost always identified Judicial Watch as a conservative organization.

In 2017, the VOA website had two references to Angela Davis, including one video. VOA reports, including another one in 2011, never mentioned Davis’ past membership in the Communist Party USA. VOA did not disclose that recently she still called herself a Communist. VOA was equally silent about her Lenin Peace Prize or the anti-U.S. Soviet propaganda campaign which glorified her as a victim of American racism. Davis was described in recent VOA reports as “an African American activist,” one of “iconic African American figures in the black power movement,” and “representing the powerful forces of change.”

In promoting Angela Davis as a fighter for human rights, VOA did not mention past criticism by the late Russian Nobel Prize winning author of The Gulag Archipelago Alexandr Solzhenitsyn of Davis’ pro-Soviet activism, or the condemnation by Czechoslovak human rights activist Jiří Pelikán of her unwillingness to help political prisoners in the Soviet Block countries during the Cold War. According to Solzhenitsyn, Pelikán and others, she reportedly dismissed appeals on behalf of Soviet-Jewish Refuseniks and political prisoners in the Soviet Union and in other communist-ruled countries by calling them enemies of socialism who deserved what they got.




In addition to monologue videos, including one with Angela Davis, the American Communist winner of the Soviet Lenin Peace Prize, VOA editors have also been posting full-length videos, lacking any balance, which showed burning of American and Israeli flags by anti-American and anti-Trump demonstrators abroad.





VOA Video Burning of U.S. and Israeli Flags Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 6:55 PM ET



In 2013, the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the agency in charge of the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and several other U.S. tax-funded media outlets serving foreign audiences was practically defunct.” The agency was then known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).



In one VOA-translated and captioned English-language video posted on an official VOA foreign language service Facebook page included references to Donald Trump as “punk,” “dog,” “pig,” “con,” “buls**t artist,” “mutt,” “idiot,” “fool,” “bozo,” and “blatantly stupid.” The video was removed but only after outside protests were received by the agency

The personal but publicly accessible Facebook page believed to belong to a VOA reporter still includes such references to Donald Trump as “#horrorclown,” “f*uck cheeto with hair,” “f*cking Trumpy and his neo-Nazi crew” and “pets who hate Trump.”




In his appearance on March 27, 2019 before the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs to discuss the Department of State Budget Request for FY 2020, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo called for leadership change at what is now known as the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). The agency is currently headed by Obama administration era holdover appointee USAGM CEO John F. Lansing. He told NPR in 2017 that agency employees have nothing but “the greatest respect for the U.S. President.” VOA Director Amanda Bennett and her deputy Sandy Sugawara, both appointed to their positions during the Obama administration, insist that they are committed to upholding the highest standards of journalism at the Voice of America. They along with Lansing bear the entire responsibility for what VOA has become in the last several years.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seems to have well-justified doubts about the quality of leadership at the U.S. Agency for Global Media. Responding to questions from Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, Secretary Pompeo said last month:

SECRETARY POMPEO: “And I would urge to get a CEO of that organization in place so that the BBG will have the right leadership so they can do the traditional mission – perhaps in a different information environment than we did back in the Cold War, but can perform its function in a way that is important and noble, and reflects the enormous resources that are – that American taxpayers have put towards that.”

I’m very concerned about it,” Secretary Pompeo added. In FY 2018, the USAGM agency cost U.S. taxpayers about $800 million, with the largest portion going to USAGM’s flagship media outlet, the Voice of America.

All Americans–Democrats, Republicans, and Independents–should be deeply concerned by unprecedented extreme partisanship, the obvious lack of historical knowledge on the part of some VOA executives, managers, editors and reporters, and their brazen willingness to ignore the VOA Charter. Whether one agrees with political views of Candace Owens or not, conservative mainstream African Africans like her have the right to have their voices heard on the Voice of America. She is no less an American than America’s best known Communist Angela Davis.


Ted Lipien served as VOA acting associate director and held a number of reporting, marketing and managing posts before his retirement in 2006. He is one of the co-founders and supporters of BBG – USAGM Watch.