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ANOTHER ASSAULT ON THE VOA

THE PETTINESS OF Trump and his administration knows no bounds. Stalling to admit election defeat, Trump first dragged his feet and is still complicating the transition to the Biden administration in new and unseemly ways.

Don’t expect to see a similar photo this time around. Image by Stephen Crowley for The New York Times, November 2016.

The latest travesty is reported in media ranging from The New York Times to NPR to Voice of America, this last organization being subjected to further assault.

A Pernicious Assault on Transition. The New York Times, December 8, 2020, reports, “Loyalists to President Trump have blocked transition meetings at some government agencies and are sitting in on discussions at other agencies between career civil servants and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s transition teams, sometimes chilling conversations, several federal officials said.”

The New York Times continues, “Presidential transition experts said the presence of political officials at agency handoff meetings was not unheard-of and could even be seen as helpful. President George W. Bush, for example, worked closely in late 2008 with Barack Obama’s incoming team to help calm volatile financial markets. But against a backdrop of Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede election defeat, the actions of Trump appointees appeared to be a pernicious effort to slow the transition, some experts said.”

Typical Trumpery. The newspaper quoted Michael E. Herz, Professor of Administrative Law at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University: “‘The norm is that the political people are not involved in the nuts and bolts of this.”

VOA Impartiality Compromised—Yet Again. NPR, December 8, 2020, writes, “The Trump appointee [Michael Pack] who runs the government’s overseas broadcasters reassigned the head of the Voice of America on Tuesday as part of a broad effort to install supporters of the president before the Biden administration comes to power.”

As background, NPR continues, Elez Biberaj “was named by Pack over the summer to lead Voice of America on an acting basis, meaning he could be removed at any time.”

Elez Biberaj, 40-year VOA veteran, was acting director until he accepted a demotion rather than retire. Image from VOA.

NRP says that Biberaj “has walked a fine line ever since. While he never publicly condemned Pack, he frequently reasserted the importance of the independence and credibility of the VOA newsroom even as Pack publicly condemned it and initiated a wave of investigations of its journalists for perceived anti-Trump bias.”

Image by Andrew Harnik/AP from NPR.

The New VOA Head. It’s expected that Pack intends to name Robert Reilly to replace Biberaj as VOA head. NPR describes Reilly as “an outspoken conservative ally” who “has written critically of Islam and gay rights, the latter in a 2015 book titled Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything.

Biberaj’s View, Via VOA. In a laudable (but likely Pack ire-producing) article, Voice of America writes, “In his email to staff, Biberaj suggested the last six months have been the most challenging period in VOA’s recent history. He wrote that ‘some agency officials failed to respect rules, protocols and processes that I considered inviolable.’ He also said, ‘attempts to trample VOA’s journalistic independence threatened to undermine our hard-won credibility,’ without elaborating.” 

Gee, I wonder which agency officials he has in mind.

A Federal Judge’s View. In other independent reporting, on November 21, 2020, VOA wrote, “A federal district court in Washington on Friday granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting officials from the U.S. Agency for Global Media, including its head, Michael Pack, from interfering with the editorial independence and First Amendment rights of the journalists at Voice of America and the other networks it oversees.”

An oldie but a goody. Image by David Rowe, November 9, 2016.

This opera ain’t over till the fat guy sings (for the last time from a presidential podium). For me, this can’t come soon enough. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020

One comment on “ANOTHER ASSAULT ON THE VOA

  1. John Smith
    December 12, 2020

    Another attempt by Republicans to destroy the Constitution. There should be severe legal consequences to such actions. Apparently, a slap on the wrist is not enough.

    Thanks for this update Dennis. I had not heard of the preliminary injunction.

    Best regards,
    John

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