June 17, 2020

President Trump’s attacks on Voice Of America (VOA) adds to a concerning pattern of his prioritization of political loyalty over relevant experience and accuracy. After Trump criticized how VOA had covered his pandemic response, the CDC reportedly blacklisted VOA reporters and two days later, VOA’s Director and Deputy Director resigned. 

This came after the installment of Michael Pack to VOA’s parent agency, the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), also adding to a disturbing pattern of Trump hiring people with known ties to white supremacist organizations. Pack is an associate of Steve Bannon who previously ran Breitbart News Network which has links with white nationalists. The New York Times described Pack as “a conservative filmmaker who President Trump has said he hopes will dictate more favorable news coverage of his administration.” It appears that Pack might also compromise VOA’s objectivity with a loyalty purge that may include installing former White House official and former Breitbart contributor Sebastian Gorka into a leadership position.

CREW has requested all USAGM records on the resignation of the VOA Director and Deputy Director as well as their communications with the CDC and White House. CREW also has requested Pack’s communications with VOA, the White House, Breitbart, and Bannon. Finally, CREW has requested VOA and USAGM visitor logs, Pack’s calendars, and any records mentioning Gorka or Sasha Gong, another previous VOA employee removed during the Trump administration.

The requested records will show the extent of Trump’s political attack on an executive branch news agency that’s supposed to have a firewall between political appointees and press coverage. Trump’s previous moves to give a mouthpiece to white supremacy have not gone unnoticed. Late last year, CREW sued DHS for failing to turn over records related to Breitbart contributor and then DHS Policy Advisor Katharine Gorka’s role in revoking grants combating white supremacy and white nationalism. Now, the public deserves to know whether Trump is allowing white supremacist-tied appointees to shift an agency’s priorities and force experienced news professionals to resign. 

Read the requests here and here.

Photo by Gage Skidmore.