U.S. Senate approves Trump pick to lead Voice of America

June 5, 2020 - 17:53

TEHRAN — U.S. Senate on Thursday approved President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Voice of America and other U.S. government-funded international broadcasters that have been criticized by the White House over claims of unfavorable news coverage.

According to The Washington Post, the Senate voted 53-38 to confirm Michael Pack, a former associate of Trump political adviser Steve Bannon, to run the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees VOA and its sister outlets including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Cuba-oriented Radio and Television Marti.

Trump had pushed for Pack’s confirmation while launching unprecedented attacks on the Voice of America for its coverage of China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats feared that Pack, a conservative filmmaker and former educator, could turn the organization into a Trump propaganda machine funded with more than $200 million a year in taxpayer money.

“Congratulations to Michael Pack!” Trump tweeted Thursday. “Nobody has any idea what a big victory this is for America. Why? Because he is going to be running the VOICE OF AMERICA, and everything associated with it.”

Last month, Trump said, “If you hear what’s coming out of the Voice of America, it’s disgusting.”

“The things they say are disgusting toward our country. And Michael Pack would get in and do a great job,” he added.

According to The New York Times, Trump has privately referred to the Voice of America as the “Voice of the Soviet Union.”

Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, has strongly criticized the performance of Voice of America’s Persian service which he said sounds more like the “Voice of the mullahs” than the “Voice of America.”

In a note published by The New York Post on May 27, Hook wrote that VOA Persian “needs to do a better job of countering Iranian disinformation and propaganda.”

He said he was receiving regular complaints about VOA’s Persian service. “Iranian viewers say its American taxpayer funded programming often sounds more like the ‘Voice of the mullahs’ than the ‘Voice of America’,” he added.

Hook said that addressing such complaints was a priority for the Trump administration and urged VOA to give access to “independent and truthful reporting.”

This is while many observers consider Voice of America’s Persian service to be a form of propaganda tool, aiming to sow discord and dissatisfaction among the Iranian public as part of Washington’s decades-long policy of overthrowing the Islamic Republic.

In what appeared like an order, Hook urged the network to specially focus on “human rights in Iran, corruption among the Iranian regime and analysis that counters propaganda rather than propagating it.”

He then went on to threaten the network with closure if it does not follow the order.

“If it can’t meet these standards — and soon — Congress should consider ending its funding and shutting down VOA Persian as a fiduciary duty to American taxpayers,” he concluded.

MH/PA

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