BBG – USAGM Watch Commentary

The U.S. tax-funded Voice of America (VOA), which repeatedly broadcast one-sided attacks by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) on Donald Trump, has been completely silent for the last few days on its VOA News English website about the latest anti-Semitic slur from the Minnesota politician and has failed to report that her Democratic Party colleague,
Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) condemned Omar’s suggestion that supporters of Israel’s government have an allegiance to a foreign country.


Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, this evening made the following statement:

“I welcome debate in Congress based on the merits of policy, but it’s unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the U.S.-Israel relationship. We all take the same oath. Worse, Representative Omar’s comments leveled that charge by invoking a vile anti-Semitic slur. This episode is especially disappointing following so closely on another instance of Ms. Omar seeming to invoke an anti-Semitic stereotype. Her comments were outrageous and deeply hurtful, and I ask that she retract them, apologize, and commit to making her case on policy issues without resorting to attacks that have no place in the Foreign Affairs Committee or the House of Representatives.”

For the last few days this has been one of the top political stories being reported by US media. The Voice of America English VOA News website has had nothing on it as of 7PM ET Monday, March 4. VOA News has not reported, as of now, that Rep. Eliot Engel called Rep. Omar most recent comments about alleged dual loyalty of members of Congress a “vile anti-Semitic slur.”

[UPDATE: The day after BBG – USAGM Watch posted this commentary, VOA News posted online an AP news report on Rep. Omar’s latest anti-Semitic controversy. The AP report had one sentence referring to Rep. Engel’s condemnation of her statements.]

Some VOA employees have said in conversations which they want to keep private that they are afraid to initiate news coverage which they fear could displease VOA and Agency for Global Media (USAGM) executives, managers, editors, as well as some of their colleagues who despise Trump and support liberal immigration policies also publicly favored by VOA Director Amanda Bennett. Both she and her boss, USAGM CEO John F. Lansing, has been warned in 2016 about political bias and unprofessional behavior, including displays of anti-Semitism among some VOA and other USAGM journalists, but violations of the VOA Charter did not stop and some reports and social media posts authored by agency employees viewed by critics as anti-Semitic continued to appear until last year. Both Bennett and Lansing were appointed to their positions during the Obama administration.

John Lansing admitted on February 27, 2019 that “Last year, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), which is overseen by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), aired a blatantly anti-Semitic video segment about George Soros that was deeply offensive and wholly inconsistent with our professional standards and ethics.” Lansing said that “OCB should have never aired it.” Lansing announced that “When the breach of conduct was brought to my attention, I asked that those deemed responsible for the segment’s production and broadcast be immediately placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation into their apparent misconduct.” Lansing also announced that “One employee and three contractors have been terminated to date, and the agency has initiated the standard disciplinary process for four additional OCB employees.”

John Lansing did not resign over the anti-Semitic OCB incident. A few days after his statement on what the agency announcement described as “OCB Soros Issue,” the Voice of America, run by Amanda Bennett, whom Lansing had selected for her U.S. government VOA executive position, is failing to report on a major U.S. news story about anti-Semitism.

We do not doubt that John Lansing and Amanda Bennett are against displays of anti-Semitism. But being opposed to something and being able to manage a government agency and the Voice of America and being able to prevent anti-Semitism and hatred from creeping into agency programs are two different things.

There is something truly rotten at the Voice of America and the United States Agency for Global Media at the current time.

As Rep. Eliot Engel’s former colleague and former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce once said, the agency is dysfunctional and rudderless. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in 2013 that the agency is “practically defunct.” The OCB anti-Semitic incident and the current VOA failure to report on anti-Semitism show the need for immediate management reforms.


VOA News site search results for recent Ilhan Omar news. Screenshot 2019-03-04 7PM ET.


VOA News site search results for recent Ilhan Omar news. Screenshot 2019-03-04 7PM ET.


Google search results for Eliot Engel news. Screenshot 2019-03-04 7PM.


Google search results for recent Eliot Engel. Screenshot 2019-03-04 7PM ET.