USAGM Commentary – Voice of America Slants News

As observed by several former Voice of America (VOA) journalist-broadcasters, editors, and government media managers with decades of international and domestic news reporting experience, the VOA news report, initially released by the VOA Central English Newsroom on June 27 after the first 2024 presidential debate, said nothing about President Biden’s feeble performance. For several hours, the Voice of America was silent in its main online report on the debate on this new major news, even though Biden’s stumble immediately became the top story for both liberal and conservative media in the U.S. and abroad. VOA, the flagship international broadcaster of the federally-funded U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), did not update its main news report with information about Biden’s poor handling of the debate until much later, and when it did, it buried it in the middle of the online text.

What made VOA’s initial omission of the leading news shockingly visible was that almost all of U.S. and international media immediately led with the story of the President’s verbal mishaps, presenting them as being likely to affect his chances of reelection and potentially having a significant impact on the future of the United States and global politics. It was the main news item during the night in the United States and abroad, but not initially on the English-language website.

Voice of America’s international and U.S. domestic audiences (a large portion of views for VOA English news reports produced by U.S. federal government salaried employees and contractors comes from the U.S.) need to be aware that it is often not what VOA reports that counts, but what its current editors and staff choose not to report or delay reporting. A few insiders and outside observers say that the many of the VOA reporters and writers hired in recent years are slanting the news according to their own, sometimes extraordinarily left-leaning and highly partisan political preferences, and what they perceive as their bosses’ wishes for VOA’s coverage.

Former Voice of America journalists also pointed out that in the Biden-Trump debate news report from the VOA Central English Newsroom, the Voice of America declared that the death toll in Gaza is “now more than 37,000, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.” What the Voice of America report failed to say is that the Gaza Health Ministry is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist group combining the most violent characteristics of the extreme right and the extreme left. Left unsaid in the VOA report was that Hamas terrorists murdered or took hostage defenseless Israeli men, women, and children and that Hamas’ acts of terrorism started the war. Senior managers, editors, and reporters in the VOA newsroom had argued against calling Hamas “terrorists” and describe them instead as “fighters” or “militants.” With this kind of reporting by VOA going back at least ten years, it would be hard to expect many non-Western nations, including English-speaking countries in Africa, to side with the U.S. instead of siding with Russia on Ukraine and with Hamas against Israel and the U.S., as they did in recent votes in the UN.

Earlier, the VOA Central English Newsroom delayed reporting of Hamas’ rapes of Israeli women and other war crimes and downplayed their severity. VOA also failed to indicate in the report on the debate, as it is required to do under the VOA Charter when significant facts are in dispute, that the Israeli government described Hamas’ casualty claims as propaganda designed to hide that the terrorist group uses Palestinian civilians as human shields and that about 14,000 killed were, according to Israel, Hamas combatants.

The 1976 VOA Charter says, “VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.” VOA often repeats Hamas’ propaganda without any challenge, as it did in the introduction to its VOA news video on April 30, quoting a Columbia University Apartheid Divest activists speak about “a martyr murdered at the hands of the genocidal Israeli state at the age of six years old.”

Besides its main debate text-only news story on the homepage of the website, which initially failed to say anything about President Biden’s poor performance, at 2:52 AM EDT, the Voice of America Central English Newsroom released a 2:30-minute video news report from the debate site in Atlanta. It also did not have a single word on Biden’s stumbles noticed and reported by all other major U.S. and international media.

Voice of America Central English Newsroom Biden-Trump Debate News Report Posted on at 2:52 AM EDT, June 28, 2024 – No Mention of President Biden’s Debate Performance

Voice of America (VOA) Central English Newsroom video report from the Biden-Trump debate in Atlanta, posted online at 2:52 AM EDT, June 28, 2024, did not mention President Biden’s poor performance.

While the main VOA News text and video reports from the debate initially said nothing about Biden’s performance, a 1-minute VOA video summary, posted on at 12:15 PM EDT had a caption, visible for a few seconds, indicating that according to a CNN survey, most viewers thought that “Trump won the debate by a 67 to 33 margin and some Democrats expressed alarm at Biden’s performance.” However, this was not the headline or the main focus of the VOA news video, which included two claims of Biden administration’s successes in handing the U.S. economy and law enforcement. The 60-second VOA video was headlined, “VOA60 America – Biden, Trump clash at first presidential debate of 2024 election.” The VOA video did not mention that many Americans rate the Biden administration as low on economy and law enforcement.

At 2:21 AM EDT June 28, the Voice of America posted a news report headlined, “Biden’s debate performance spurs Democratic panic about his ability to win.” However, it was not a news report originated by VOA but a reposting of an Associated Press wire service report.

Former VOA journalists have observed that in recent years, the VOA newsroom would usually first try to ignore news unfavorable to the Obama and Biden administrations or Biden’s appointees and their managers at USAGM. However, when it becomes evident that a news story is too big to ignore, the VOA newsroom would sometimes post a wire service report. Former VOA broadcasters think that this is probably because no VOA reporter in the now highly politicized and partisan VOA Central English Newsroom wants to be the first to put his or her name to a negative news story about Democrats and liberal causes. When a story becomes huge and widely reported by such media outlets as the Washington Post and the New York Times, VOA newsroom reporters who are strongly pro-Biden sometimes initiate news reports on such negative developments for the Biden administration but often many hours or days later.

There are by now not more than just a few reporters in the VOA newsroom who might identify themselves as conservatives, Republican Party members, or registered independent voters. Some told their retired colleagues that they do not propose to write news stories unfavorable to the Biden administration because they would become ostracized by their radical colleagues and would ruin their promotion chances. The staff of the Voice of America Central English Newsroom and their day-to-day reporting do not come even close to reflecting accurately and properly balancing the diversity of American society and its conflicting opinions.

Screenshots of Voice of America Central English Newsroom (VOA News) Main Biden-Trump Debate News Report – Posted on at 10:59 PM EDT, June 27, 2024 – No Mention of President Biden’s Debate Performance


Biden, Trump clash at first presidential debate of 2024 election

June 27, 2024 10:59 PM

By Ken Bredemeier

[AFP Photo from the Biden-Trump debate]

US President Joe Biden and former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participate in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections at CNN’s studios in Atlanta, June 27, 2024.

U.S. President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump clashed right from the start of their debate Thursday night, arguing pointedly about the U.S. economy, foreign affairs, abortion rights and migration across the Mexican border into the United States.

“We’re like a Third World nation and it’s a shame,” Trump told a nationwide television audience from a debate stage at CNN headquarters in Atlanta.

“We’re no longer respected,” Trump said, blaming Biden. “They think we’re stupid.”

Biden retorted at one point, looking at Trump. “This is the worst president in American history. This guy has no sense of American democracy.”

The Biden-Trump confrontation, four-plus months ahead of the November 5 election, was the earliest debate ever in the quadrennial cycle of U.S. presidential elections. It was also a replay of their two 2020 debates, which occurred in the two months just ahead of Biden defeating Trump’s reelection bid for a second term in the White House.

Thursday’s face-off was the first time two U.S. presidents have ever debated each other, and it was the first time, such is their animus toward each other, that Biden and Trump have appeared in the same room since they last debated in October 2020.

Trump skipped Biden’s January 2021 inauguration, and they have been sniping at each other ever since, including on the debate stage Thursday night.

In recent days, Trump mocked Biden’s debate preparation and suggested he would need a medical boost to get through the 90-minute, face-to-face encounter. Trump told a Philadelphia rally, “Right now, crooked Joe has gone to a log cabin to ‘study,’” as he pantomimed quotation marks with his hands. “He’s sleeping now, because they want to get him good and strong.”

Trump has long contended that Biden cannot put “two sentences together.” More recently, however, Trump has been priming his supporters for the possibility that Biden might be something more formidable than the doddering old man that Trump has portrayed him as.

“I assume he’s going to be somebody that will be a worthy debater,” Trump told one interviewer. “I don’t want to underestimate him.”

For his part, in mid-May, just before the Thursday debate was agreed to, Biden said, “Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020. Since then, he hasn’t shown up for a debate.” Trump skipped several such encounters against Republican opponents in the party’s presidential nominating process earlier this year.

“Now he’s acting like he wants to debate me again,” Biden said. “Well, make my day, pal.”

There was no studio audience for the debate, and the two candidates were mostly accompanied only by a handful of aides. First lady Jill Biden was in the studio. Trump’s wife, Melania, was not there, but several Republicans who want to be Trump’s vice-presidential running mate showed up.

Mary Trump, the former president’s estranged niece, was also in Atlanta and planned to voice her support for Biden in the post-debate spin room as the candidates’ aides make the case for how well their favored candidate performed.

The two 2024 candidates are the oldest presidents in U.S. history, with the Democrat Biden now 81 and the Republican Trump 78. They hold widely different views on how the United States should be governed starting in January 2025 and what role as a military superpower it should play in world affairs, with Biden calling for continuing close connections with European allies while Trump espouses an isolationist U.S. worldview.

Biden has rallied Western nations in support of Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s 2022 invasion, while Trump has voiced skepticism about continued U.S. support of Kyiv’s forces and has said he would quickly resolve the conflict without saying how he would accomplish it.

Both candidates have maintained support for Israel in its war against Hamas militants. Biden, however, has lately criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conduct of the war in Gaza and the death toll of Palestinians there, now more than 37,000, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Biden has pushed for a cease-fire while Trump has said Israel should quickly “go and do what you have to do” to defeat Hamas.

National polls show Biden and Trump in a virtual dead heat.

Numerous U.S. political analysts say that millions of Americans have already locked in their choice in the contest. But many voters dislike them both, “double haters,” in the current U.S. political parlance, and may only reluctantly choose one of the two, vote for a third party or independent candidate or not vote at all.

For political independents who have yet to decide, or maybe for those who have not closely followed the contest, the debate could help them decide or at least point them in the direction of Biden or Trump. A second debate is set for September 10.


A later timestamp on the VOA report shows that it was updated at 2:53 AM EDT, Friday, June 28, 2024. Whether a part or the entire portion of the update was inserted at that time, could not be checked. Much of the balance in the update provided did not come directly from VOA but from an outside expert interviewed by VOA’s Ukrainian Service, which evidently cared more about accurate and balanced news reporting than initially the VOA Central English Newsroom. The update was buried in the story, and its headline and the lead paragraph were not changed in the update to reflect the most important news take from the debate.


Trump, often the aggressor in the debate against a halting and raspy-voiced Biden, returned the taunt, saying Biden was the worst. They frequently accused each other of lying. A snap post-debate CNN survey said Trump convincingly won the debate by a 67-33% margin and some Democrats expressed alarm at Biden’s performance.

Michael Kimmage, professor of history at The Catholic University of America in Washington, told VOA’s Ukrainian service that overall there were few sharply explained policy positions from either candidate, but that was overshadowed by Biden’s communication struggles.

“The most salient detail of the evening was Biden’s tone of voice, which was faltering and not strong. It was his inability to come up with easy to follow coherent answers to questions, and he did that half the time, but half the time he didn’t, and in a number of cases he lost his train of thought.”


Perhaps due to interventions by new VOA Director Michael Abramowitz, the VOA newsroom’s coverage of Biden’s poor debate performance and the political troubles it presented was much more extensive in subsequent days.

Voice America Delays Reporting on President Biden’s Poor Debate Performance for Several Hours, Former VOA Journalists Observed

Among the first to notice something strange about the initial news report on the Biden-Trump debate posted online by the Voice of America Central English Newsroom at 10:59 PM EDT on June 27, 2024, were former VOA journalists and managers who participate in the Voice of America Alumni private Facebook group. Two hours after the end of the Biden-Trump debate, the VOA English news website’s top story did not mention Biden’s poor performance. Former broadcasters in the Voice of America Alumni group include Democrats, Republicans, and independent voters. Some of those expressing shock at the VOA newsroom ignoring the main conclusion of ordinary Americans, media and experts coming out of the debate were former VOA journalists who are Democratic voters and Biden supporters but, at the same time, firm believers in the VOA Charter, which mandates truthful, objective, balanced, and non-partisan news reporting by the 100% U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America.

VOA’s coverage of the Biden-Trump debate came within the first few days on the job of the newly appointed VOA Director, Michael Abramowitz. Abramowitz, a former Washington Post editor and White House correspondent and later president of Freedom House, reportedly spent the evening in the VOA headquarters watching the presidential debate. “It was thrilling for me to see our teams at work, telling the story of America’s democracy in action–and in more than 40 different languages,” he said in a note to VOA staff after the debate.

Abramowitz was sworn in on June 24 as the 31st Director of the Voice of America. He said then, “For more than 80 years, the Voice of America has delivered trusted news and information to the world, especially for those living in closed societies and who have no other access to the truth.” Abramowitz added, “This role could not be more important in an age when authoritarian regimes are spreading lies and propaganda with abandon. I look forward to working with VOA’s outstanding journalists and staff in fulfilling its unique mission.

Abramowitz inherited the key VOA English Newsroom supervisors and reporters who have been highly praised and promoted under the watch of former VOA Director Amanda Bennett and her successors as acting VOA directors. Bennett herself served as VOA Director appointed by Obama administration officials from 2016 to 2020, almost until the end of the Trump administration. She is now President Biden’s USAGM CEO.

At the time of Michael Abramowitz’s swearing in ceremony, Bennett said about him, “Michael is a brilliant journalist, who is fiercely passionate about VOA’s mission–which is telling audiences the truth.” Bennett added, “I can’t wait to see how his contagious energy and enthusiasm powers this team. I am excited for his leadership, and incredibly grateful to John Lippman and Yolanda Lopez for their service in the interim.

VOA’s Acting Director of Programming, John Lippman, served as Acting VOA Director since October 2023. Previous VOA Acting Director Yolanda Lopez served from January 2021 until September 2023. Bennett, as VOA director, was responsible for key personnel decisions affecting the past and current leadership and staff of the VOA Central English Newsroom. She and her most senior aide, Kelu Chao, groomed former and current VOA managers and VOA newsroom supervisors to assume leadership roles.

It appears that no one advised Michael Abramowitz to check promptly how the VOA Central English Newsroom was reporting on the Biden-Trump debate under these leaders, supervisors, and editors. That something was wrong with the Voice of America newsroom’s handling of the debate news story could be seen quickly by checking how VOA’s coverage compared with the headlines and reporting by the New York Times, the BBC, or CNN. Still, it took several hours for VOA to start informing their English-speaking audiences at greater length on Biden’s debate performance and its repercussions for U.S. domestic and foreign policy. Visitors to VOA’s foreign language services websites may have also been initially misinformed about the debate if any of them translated and used the main VOA news report.

While the VOA English news report on the debate said nothing about Biden’s performance until well into the next day–June 28–the non-profit Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine shows this New York Times headline and sub-headline for a news analysis posted shortly after the debate on June 27 at 11:09 PM EDT, “A Fumbling Performance, and a Panicking Party: President Biden’s shaky, halting debate performance has top Democrats talking about replacing him on the ticket” | NEW YORK TIMES.

A BBC report’s headline read, “Biden stumbles in testy debate where personal attacks fly” | BBC.

The Wayback Machine captured the BBC report about ten minutes after midnight, but it was likely posted before midnight.

The CNN’s headline for a report updated at 12:39 AM EDT, Friday June 28, 2024, said, “Biden’s debate performance sets off alarm bells for Democrats” | CNN.

A review of the initial Voice of America’s coverage of the Biden-Trump debate using the Wayback Machine showed that on June 27, 2024 at 11:10:53 PM EDT (03:10:53 UTC, June 28, 2024), Biden’s poor performance was completely ignored in the VOA Central English Newsroom’s online report “Biden, Trump clash at first presidential debate of 2024 election,” which VOA posted, according to its timestamp, at 10:59 PM EDT.

At 5:01:04 UTC or 1:01:04 AM EDT, the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine still shows the same initial VOA English News report on the website without any mention of President Biden’s stumbling performance during the debate.

Some former Voice of America journalists have been writing opinion articles in American newspapers and blog posts saying that for a long time, the Voice of America Newsroom has been slanting news, choosing to delay reporting, or entirely ignoring some breaking news stories that its current reporters and editors regard as inconsistent with their political views or likely to offend their bosses and the Biden administration. For at least a decade, some of the longtime VOA and U.S. Agency for Global Media executives and their favored managers have been hiring and promoting senior and lower-level VOA government supervisors, editors, and reporters who appear to share their political views. By U.S. law embodied in the congressionally-approved VOA Charter, Voice of America news reporting must be objective and free from any partisan bias. However, by now, there are very few Republicans or non-partisan, independent journalists working in the VOA Central English Newsroom.

Some of the now-retired VOA broadcasters– including Democrats, Republicans, and those not affiliated with any political party–occasionally check the main VOA English news website, They frequently report that the VOA Charter’s strict requirements for staying clear of partisanship and activist journalism are no longer observed. Under both Democratic and Republican administrations during the Cold War, the vast majority of VOA broadcasters put aside their party affiliations as employees of the U.S. government, but the current lack of diversity among the VOA English newsroom staff and poor leadership from senior USAGM and VOA officials has resulted in multiple incidents of censorship, and biased reporting, according to critical posts seen on the private VOA Alumni Facebook group.

This latest VOA attempt to omit the news casting an unfavorable light on President Biden came shortly after a largely symbolic but damming amendment introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and passed by a voice vote in the U.S. House of Representatives regarding the future budget for the nearly 1-billion-dollar (FY) U.S. Agency for Global Media which oversees the Voice of America. Issa’s amendment said that it “decreases and increases funding for USAGM to contradict agency messaging at Voice of America that budget cuts in FY24 and FY25 are due to the budget environment and not, in part, to performance and a lack of adherence to the [VOA] Charter (including staff discipline issues and an unwillingness to call Hamas members terrorists without attribution).

A recent National Review article described the amendment as a rebuke to USAGM CEO and former VOA Director Amanda Bennett.

In another article in National Review, the magazine’s national security correspondent Jimmy Quinn reported that “two Voice of America staff members posted blatantly anti-Israel material on Facebook in the aftermath of the October 7 massacre.” The anti-Israeli content appeared on their personal Facebook pages, which included information that they work for the Voice of America. Some of VOA’s Jewish employees complained anonymously to outside media that they are subjected to a hostile work environment and are afraid to speak out at their workplace.

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.

While Bennett tried to argue in her appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that some of the recent scandals happened after she had resigned as VOA Director and before she became USAGM CEO, most occurred during her VOA directorship and USAGM CEO role, and the rest, under the watch of her most trusted and praised senior aides. An independent third-party review of programming on the Voice of America’s Persian Service in 2017, when Bennett was VOA director, found that, on the whole, “it perpetuated to audiences the appearance of pro-[Iranian] regime propaganda, rather than objective reporting.”

Also, during Bennett’s VOA directorship, VOA showed U.S. presidential campaign videos without context or balance for the first time in VOA’s history. One such outside video showed with the VOA logo and broadcast in English with foreign language captions included vulgar language and appeared to condone violence. Under Bennett’s watch, VOA also posted raw footage news videos, again under its logo but without context or challenge, showing the burning of American and Israeli flags by anti-Israel and anti-U.S. demonstrators.

In 2019, Amanda Bennett, then the VOA Director, was alerted that the VOA Russian Service had hired a former Russian state media journalist who produced anti-U.S. propaganda videos with antisemitic overtones. Despite this warning, the reporter was allowed to work for VOA for many more months until the expiration of the work contract.

The Washington Post reported later that VOA hired even more former Putin media journalists, one of whom was terminated after an internal investigation triggered by outside media reporting. The Washington Post also reported in an opinion article that the USAGM and VOA management reporting team failed to anticipate the Taliban’s quick victory and allowed hundreds of USAGM contractors and their family members to be stranded in Afghanistan under extremely dangerous conditions. The key members of the management team responsible for these and other management and programming scandals received frequent praise from Amanda Bennett and are still being defended by her as “hardworking civil servants” despite media and congressional criticism.

Darrell Issa: Congress Cut Voice of America’s Budget over Hamas Controversy | National Review

As reported by National Review, during an all-hands town-hall meeting for agency staff in April, Amanda Bennett said, “The one thing that I want to make sure you understand is when people start talking about budget cutting and tightening our belts, this is coming from Congress. Don’t blame your bosses for the things that they’re doing. It’s not their fault.” Rep. Issa’s amendment contradicts Bennett’s statement to staff.

Earlier, seven Republican Senators sent a letter to Bennett after the Voice of America removed the word “terrorist” from a VOA report about the October 7 Hamas attack on the music festival in Israel. The signatories were Senators Bill HagertyTed CruzMarco RubioPete RickettsLindsey GrahamDeb Fischer, and John Barrasso.

For at least a decade, some VOA journalists have been glorifying leftist terrorism as a struggle for freedom. A report posted on when Bennett was VOA Director presented in a positive light the cult of the communist revolutionary Che Guevara without mentioning victims of communist repression. Other VOA reports during the same period praised Angela Davis as a human right defender without mentioning her Communist Party membership, her Lenin Peace Prize, and her refusal of requests during the Cold War to intercede with communist regimes on behalf of imprisoned dissidents.

The  Subcommittee on Oversight & Accountability of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing July 9, 2024, on “Management Successes and Failures: Assessing the U.S. Agency for Global Media.” USAGM CEO Amanda Bennett, new VOA Director Michael Abramowitz, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Steve Capus are scheduled to testify.

Management Successes and Failures: Assessing the U.S. Agency for Global Media | House Foreign Affairs Committee

On June 12, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) issued a report, accusing senior USAGM executives of allowing 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.” The Voice of America Central English Newsroom ignored for nearly three Days the House Foreign Affairs Committee report alleging a “culture of corruption” allowed by senior USAGM executives. 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.

Chairman McCaul Releases Report on Culture of Corruption at USAGM | House Foreign Affairs Committee

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 VOA Central English Newsroom and the Public Relations Office tried to downplay the freelancer’s links with VOA by claiming that he had only provided video material, when, in fact, he produced video news reports for VOA under his name, which VOA later removed from its website and social media accounts.

As reported by the Washington Times, USAGM CEO Amanda Bennett accused the authors of the House Foreign Affairs Committee report of “callous attempts to malign hardworking civil servants.”