Federal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee
This article features our Senior Counsel David Seide and was originally published here.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, a federal watchdog agency, announced Wednesday that it had uncovered a “substantial likelihood of wrongdoing” at the U.S. Agency for Global Media following an investigation over claims against its CEO, NPR reports.
The parent company of Voice of America (VOA), a state-controlled international television and radio outlet, has experienced upheaval since CEO Michael Pack was appointed by President Trump.
Among the claims made are that Pack had two aides look into VOA’s journalists, including White House bureau chief Steve Herman, accusing them of anti-Trump bias. Pack also tried to push stories that portrayed the president in a favorable light during the election cycle.
In November, U.S. Judge Beryl Howell, an appointee of former President Obama, ruled that Pack had unjustly punished journalists for their alleged anti-Trump sentiments and intervened with the news service, writing that his actions “violated and continue to violate [journalists’] First Amendment rights because, among other unconstitutional effects, they result in self-censorship and the chilling of First Amendment expression.”
Karen Tanenbaum, an attorney with the federal watchdog, said the office investigated various claims against Pack that led to their conclusion, including removal of a firewall designed to protect journalists, the firing of various network presidents, the refusal of renewing visas of foreign staff members and more.
“It’s a significant step, but far from the last one,” David Seide, senior counsel to the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit law firm that represents employees of VOA and its parent company, told NPR of the federal watchdog’s findings.
“Our clients have disclosed significant and frankly shocking allegations at this agency. It’s gratifying that OSC made this independent judgment.”
U.S. Agency for Global Media did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.