Former BBG Board Member Reacts to Voice of America Foreign Propaganda Videos During Pandemic
American radio host and former Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member Blanquita Cullum has criticized the Voice of America (VOA) management for allowing posting of one-sided propaganda videos on the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BLANQUITA CULLUM: This is appalling and absolutely questions the standard of journalism that is mandated by the VOA Charter. The taxpayers of the United States are funding VOA–taxpayers literally facing a pandemic that has cost many of them to be without jobs, quarantined and suffering illness and loss of life. Do they think that Americans will want to support an entity–on their dime–that reflects or supports the propaganda of Communist China? If this is true it must be resolved immediately. This is not a game! Their compromised journalism disrespects those who are in need of the accurate information and the American people who are paying for it. The time for VOA to remember what their responsibility to their audience, American taxpayers and Congress is now!
Cullum, who was named to the BBG board in 2002 by President George W. Bush and served until 2010, made her comment after the Trump White House also criticized Voice of America’s management in a April 9, 2020 White House 1600 Daily newsletter article: “Voice of America spends your money to speak for authoritarian regimes.” The article, re-titled “Amid a Pandemic, Voice of America Spends Your Money to Promote Foreign Propaganda,” was posted again on April 10 on the White House website under “Foreign Policy” category.
In May 2019, Blanquita Cullum publicly criticized Voice of America management for highlighting in news headlines and reports false propaganda generated by the Maduro regime in Venezuela and its Russian and Cuban backers. A child of immigrants, Cullum is a fluent Spanish speaker and has visited Venezuela several times as a journalist and a U.S. government official.
VOA is overseen the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) which prior to 2018 was known as the BBG. Blanquita Walsh Cullum, who was named to the BBG board in 2002 by President George W. Bush and served until 2010, wrote in her May 4, 2019 Facebook post:
BLANQUITA CULLUM: SHAME ON VOA!! As many of you know I was a Governor on the Broadcasting Board of Governors overseeing VOA. This is disgraceful. YOU the American taxpayers have a “VOICE” as your taxpayer $ funds this. Please let your Senators and Members of Congress know.
Cullum was responding to media reports and independent studies showing that under its current leadership put in place during the Obama administration, USAGM media entities have been repeating and in some cases promoting propaganda from Russia, Iran, China, and authoritarian governments in Central Asia.
The American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) found in an independent study conducted in 2017 that the Voice of America Persian Service and Radio Farda managed by another BBG/USAGM media entity, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), “on the whole, perpetuated to audiences the appearance of pro-regime propaganda, rather than objective reporting, on the part of both the VOA and Farda.”
A follow-up AFPC study in 2019 concluded that “Even with the reforms carried out to date, the USAGM’s Persian-language outreach remains far too opaque and unaccountable.”
Former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce revealed in December 2018 that both the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty targeted Americans with illegal Facebook ads.
The Wall Street Journal reported that RFE/RL has been accused by the U.S. State Department of disseminating autocratic propaganda in broadcasts to Central Asia. Since then, RFE/RL’s coverage has improved under new entity head Jamie Fly.
During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, the VOA Ukrainian Service translated and posted a campaign video with slurs against Donald Trump.
Former USAGM CEO John F. Lansing and VOA Director Amanda Bennett had been warned about some these problems but ignored most of the outside critics until mainstream U.S. media started to report on some of the scandals. John Lansing reportedly told one critic offering private warnings more than a year ago about mismanagement within the agency to stop contacting him. He resigned at the end of September 2019 to become the head of National Public Radio (NPR).
Amanda Bennett issued a public statement on April 10 in defense of her management of the Voice of America. She asserted that “VOA has thoroughly debunked much of the information coming from the Chinese government and government-controlled media.” USAGM Watch has found, however, multiple examples of VOA using one-sided propaganda material from foreign governments and anti-U.S. groups, or repeating their disinformation claims and anti-U.S. propaganda without any challenge.
SEE: Six raw videos of burning U.S. and Israeli flags got 3,500,000 views on Voice of America, BBG Watch, December 19, 2017
SEE: Steady Stream of Good China News Propaganda from Voice of America, USAGM WATCH, March 30, 2020
SEE: U.S. Tax-Funded Voice of America Accepts China’s COVID Propaganda and Spreads It with Its Own Graphics for Better Impact, USAGM WATCH, April 6, 2020
Following public disclosure of some of the scandals, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called over a year ago for a leadership change at the USAGM. He made his remarks about U.S. international media outreach in his congressional testimony on March 27, 2019
“And I would urge to get a CEO of that organization in place so that the BBG will have the right leadership so they can do the traditional mission – perhaps in a different information environment than we did back in the Cold War, but can perform its function in a way that is important and noble, and reflects the enormous resources that are – that American taxpayers have put towards that,” Secretary Pompeo told members of Congress.
“I’m very concerned about it,” Secretary Pompeo added. Film documentarian and former U.S. Information Agency (USIA) official Michael Pack who is President Trump’s nominee to be the next USAGM CEO has been awaiting his confirmation by the U.S. Senate for over two years.