Summary: Pro-Beijing Newspaper, Wen Wei Po: Trump “Handpicks” Former Aide of Anti-Chinese, Out-of-Touch Politician Bannon to “Revive” Propaganda, “Voice of America” Directors Resign
Published by Wen Wei Po*
The Director and Deputy Director of US propaganda machine Voice of America, Amanda Bennett and Sandra Sugawara, respectively, resigned on June 15th and hinted their elimination from the “game” was caused by Michael Pack, Trump’s long time handpicked choice who recently was approved by the senate to head the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM)]. It is worthy to bring to attention that Pack is the aide of the crazily anti-Chinese, former “White House Strategist” Steve Bannon.
According to the June 16th report by The Washington Post, the two left an internal memo to their colleagues addressing that “…it is time for us to leave.” adding, “As the Senate-confirmed CEO, he has the right to replace us with his own VOA leadership.”
Since April of this year, Voice of America, famous for its shticks slandering China, has been receiving accusations from the White House and President Trump for draining the US taxpayers’ money but failing to “narrate the American story,” and instead, has been helping China and Iran spread their propaganda. Trump went as far as to denounce “the things they say are disgusting.”
Consequently, Trump nominated Michael Pack to head the taxpayer-funded U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which includes Voice of America.
After receiving non-stop questioning towards its narrative’s “positioning’ and direction, Voice of America responded by “smearing back paint on China” during the Covid-19 pandemic. But even by doing so could not stop the Voice of America from being “blacklisted” by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC implied in an internal memo that the White House blamed Voice of America for helping “promote” China on Twitter, and pointed out in the memo that the CDC declines “any” request from the VOA for comments or interviews. In response to the content of the leaked memo, Bennett publicly expressed shock on the 14th.
CEO “from out-of-nowhere”, Michael Pack
By implying that Michael Pack “popped out from nowhere,” Bennett and Sugawara left some questions unanswered in their resignation letter.
According to the report by Voice of America, the two expressed to their colleagues that “Nothing about you, your passion, your mission or your integrity changes. Michael Pack swore before Congress to respect and honor the firewall that guarantees VOA’s independence, which in turn plays the single most important role in the stunning trust our audiences around the world have in us.”
It is reported that, “the firewall” refers to isolating the narratives broadcasted by the Voice of America to only reach foreign audiences. According to the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, popularly known as the Smith–Mundt Act, Section 501(a) states information produced by VOA for audiences outside the United States shall not be disseminated within the United States which is still in effect. According to this act, propaganda platforms like VOA are not allowed to be broadcasted within the United States without legal repercussions. This is why the majority of Americans have not had any chances of listening to the Voice of America.
Even though the nature of its platform dictates otherwise, VOA took an objective approach to reporting China’s fight against Covid-19 during the outbreak of the pandemic.
Or maybe it is exactly VOA’s “scattered” objective reports that agitated the higher ups.
According to analysis, the resignation of the Director and Deputy Director proves the attempts by the Trump administration to dictate the contents and ways of which Voice of America reports. And because of this, the reference made in the resignation letter by Bennett and Sugawara on “out-of-nowhere” Pack seems especially satirical.
Movie producer, Michael Pack, is an aide to American Alt-right populist, Steve Bannon. Bannon is a “veteran” at using the media as a platform to express his extreme political views. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he preaches to his audience on how the virus “leaked from the lab” and to “make China responsible” and “pay for damages.”
Michael Pack was nominated more than 2 years ago to head Voice of America. However due to concerns of conflicting interests raised by the Senate Democrats regarding Pack’s ownership of his allegedly non-profit movie production company, his approval had been pending. But in the end, the concerns were of no match to Trump’s furious disdain for VOA and his overwhelming support for Pack, despite the fact that according to The Washington Post, Pack’s production company is still being investigated even after his nomination was approved earlier this month.
Ironically, even though the basic purpose of the Voice of America was to serve as a utility during the Cold War and broadcast American values, Bennett describes her interpretation of Voice of America’s mission as “We export the First Amendment to people around the world who have no other access to factual, truthful, believable information. That’s why more than 80% of our 280 million audience in 47 languages in more than 60 countries say they find our work credible.” According to the report, founded in 1942, VOA, with 1,100 journalists and an annual budget of $250 million, is one of the world’s largest news operations.
A sharp contrast to the “Independent from the American government” that VOA supposedly maintained. Or maybe it is just Bennett’s journalistic nature peeping through.
As a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, Bennett received a Pulitzer Prize for her article published in 1987; she won the Pulitzer again, this time as an editor, by leading an investigation of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Her husband is Donald Graham, ex-CEO of the Washington Post.
Deputy Director Sugawara used to be a journalist and editor at the Washington Post. The two started their positions at the Voice of America in 2016, with a focus on revamping its operations and technology.
Possibly due to the “revamping” led by Bennett, VOA reporter “banned” by the CDC, Greta Van Susteren tweeted expressing that she is extremely disappointed by the CDC, White House and others for “blacklisting” her without pointing out specific issues regarding her reporting of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Obvious to those involved, Bennett and Sugawara’s “revamping” crossed the line.
*Note on Wen Wei Po: Wen Wei Po is a pro-Beijing newspaper based in Hong Kong. The newspaper was established in Hong Kong on 9 September 1948, after its Shanghai edition was launched in 1938. It is owned by Ta Kung Wen Wei Media Group, which is controlled by the liaison office of the Chinese government in Hong Kong. Wen Wei Po is subsidized by and advocates for the Chinese government.:139 Wen Wei Po accounts for less than 1 per cent of Hong Kong’s readership:139 and is mainly read by readers in mainland China and older Hong Kong readers.:20In a 2019 survey conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Wen Wei Po was the second least credible paid newspaper in Hong Kong.