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U.S. Inspector General finds retaliation against six Voice of America execs

by | Aug 13, 2021 | Whistleblower Protection

Voice of American is an independent state-run media service. However, six senior executives complained that the network had become a propaganda machine under the Trump administration. This complaint was spurred by the behavior of right-wing documentary filmmaker Michael Pack as chief executive of VOA’s parent company U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).

Michael Pack pushes partisan politics

Installed in June 2020, Pack and his team were accused of undermining the impartiality and independence of VOA’s journalists and editors. The complaint resulted in the six employees who filed it getting stripped of their security clearances and suspended. This occurred despite a late-arriving injunction from a federal judge enjoining Pack to stop.

“Journalists must be free to write, report, publish, and broadcast stories about their outlet’s sponsors, advertisers, and even publishers because the credibility of a news organization is its business model,” the group wrote in an ensuing federal complaint. “Defendants have chosen to disregard that principle entirely.”

Alleged breaches of impartiality included:

  • VOA’s refusal under Pack of renewing visas for foreign journalists hired by USAGM
  • Pack’s politically motivated attempts to meddle in coverage
  • A refusal to institute COVID-19 safety guidelines
  • Illegally funneling millions from a non-profit under Pack’s control to his for-profit film company

Pack faced complaints from more than 30 whistleblowers during his short tenure with USAGM. He also hired a private law firm at the cost of between $2 and $4 million in USAGM money in an attempt to find dirt on employees with a supposed bias against Trump.

Pack resigns

On his Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden requested that Pack resign. The new heads returned the organization to previous goals and standards, including the full reinstatement of the six whistleblowers. They are now officially cleared of all wrongdoing.

“The employees can now say they were victims of whistleblower retaliation, and the [Office of Inspector General], a nonpartisan, independent organization agreed,” Government Accountability Project attorney David Z. Seide said in a recent interview.