Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett Resigned Amid Accusations of Failing to Stop China and Iran Propaganda in VOA Programs


USAGM Watch Commentary


Voice of America Amanda Bennett and her deputy Sandy Sugawara have submitted their resignations on June 15, 2020 to the newly Senate-confirmed U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) CEO Michael Pack amid continuing accusations from China and Iran experts at U.S. universities and think tanks, leaders of Chinese-American and Iranian-American immigrant communities and Trump administration officials in the White House and the State Department that VOA has repeated Chinese and Iranian regime propaganda under their watch.

In an e-mail to staff announcing her resignation, Amanda Bennett did not refer to any criticism of her leadership or management and programming scandals at the Voice of America during her tenure and offered an upbeat message outlining what she described as her accomplishments.

AMANDA BENNETT: “This morning we sent our resignations to Michael Pack, the newly-arrived CEO of the US Agency for Global Media.  As the Senate-confirmed CEO, he has the right to replace us with his own VOA leadership. We depart with the gratitude and joy that has marked our time together, with a dedication to our mission and admiration for each one of you.”

“Just think of what we have accomplished together!  When we arrived in 2016 you said you wanted big change — and you were true to your word.  Creating change was hard, complex, painstaking.  It required days, weeks, months of hard work from so many of you.  Yet the results are very clear — your rapid, can-do response to the Coronavirus crisis, your growing enthusiasm for collegiality and sharing; your leap to the top of your digital markets; your compassionate and compelling quest to tell America’s story; your focus on pushing back on untruths and disinformation around the world; your attention to the stories of women, of refugees and of your press colleagues around the world.”

Critics have blamed Amanda Bennett for allowing unprecedented U.S. domestic partisan propaganda in Voice of America programs, including a 2016 U.S. presidential campaign video posted online by VOA Ukrainian Service, in which a Hollywood actor Robert De Niro called Donald Trump  “punk,” “dog,” “pig,” “con,” “bull**t artist,” “mutt,” “idiot,” “fool,” “bozo,” and “blatantly stupid.” The video, as presented by VOA with VOA logo, also appeared to condone physical violence against Trump. The partisan campaign message, which did not include any context or balance and violated the VOA Charter, was eventually removed by VOA after outside criticism. The video also appeared to condone physical violence against an American political figure–yet another unprecedented change during Amanda Bennett’s tenure at VOA.

No other Voice of America director had been a target of multiple and repeated public criticism from U.S. immigrant communities and from within the U.S. government for allowing foreign propaganda to seep into VOA programs as Amanda Bennett has been during the last years in her VOA job.

Amanda Bennett was Director of the Voice of America (VOA) since 2016. She was appointed during the Obama administration and kept her position until June 2020 because confirmation of President trump’s nominee Michael Pack to head USAGM, the parent federal agency for the Voice of America, was delayed in the U.S. Senate. This USAGM Watch Commentary Page includes her official biography (March 20, 2020) from the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) website, as well as links to media articles by her and about her and various opinions about her work. The USAGM oversees VOA’s taxpayer-funded operations.

Please note that BBG Watch and USAGM Watch neither represent nor endorse any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.

The following official biography of Amanda Bennett appeared on the USAGM website.

Amanda Bennett

Director, Voice of America

Amanda Bennett is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, investigative journalist and editor and was named Director of the Voice of America in March 2016. Through 2013, she was Executive Editor, Bloomberg News, where she created and ran a global team of investigative reporters and editors. She was also co-founder of Bloomberg News’ Women’s project. She was editor of The Philadelphia Inquirerfrom June 2003 to November 2006, and prior to that was editor of the Herald-Leader in Lexington, Kentucky. She also served for three years as managing editor/projects for The Oregonian in Portland. Bennett served as a Wall Street Journal reporter for more than 20 years. A graduate of Harvard College, she held numerous posts at the Journal, including auto industry reporter in Detroit in the late 70s and early 80s, Pentagon and State Department reporter, Beijing correspondent, management editor/reporter, national economics correspondent and, finally, chief of the Atlanta bureau until 1998, when she moved to The Oregonian.

Bennett shared the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting with her Journal colleagues, and in 2001 led a team from The Oregonian to a Pulitzer for public service. Projects by the Bloomberg Projects and Investigations team won numerous awards, including Loeb, Polk, Barlett & Steele, Headliners, Society of American Business Editors and Writers and Overseas Press Club Awards.

She was a member of the board of the Pulitzer Prizes from 2003 to 2011 and served as co-Chair of the Pulitzer Board in 2010. She also served on the boards of the Loeb Awards, the American Society of News Editors; and of the Fund for Investigative Journalism as well as the board of advisers of the Temple University Press; the board of directors of Axis Philly, a nonprofit local news site; and of the Rosenbach Museum, a Philadelphia museum of rare books.

She is the author of six books including “In Memoriam” (1998), co-authored with Terence B. Foley; “The Man Who Stayed Behind” (1993), co-authored with Sidney Rittenberg; “Death of the Organization Man” (1991) and “The Quiet Room” (1996), co-authored with Lori Schiller. “The Cost of Hope,” her memoir of the battle she and Foley, her late husband, fought against his kidney cancer, was published in June 2012 by Random House.

Together with her husband, Donald Graham, she is a co-founder of TheDream.US, which provides college scholarships to the children of undocumented immigrants.