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Political appointees investigated Voice of America journalist for possible anti-Trump bias: report

Political appointees investigated Voice of America journalist for possible anti-Trump bias: report
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A top Voice of America (VOA) journalist was investigated by two Trump appointees who suspected him of bias against the president, NPR reported on Sunday.

VOA White House bureau chief Steve Herman was the subject of a confidential report by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which oversees VOA, that cited his social media activity, including tweets he had “liked,” according to materials reviewed by NPR.

The investigation also looked at two stories from September. One concerned a large outdoor Trump campaign rally in North Carolina that did not follow public health guidelines, while another concerned President TrumpDonald TrumpUS gives examples of possible sanctions relief to Iran GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House passes bill aimed at stopping future Trump travel ban MORE’s defense of the revelation that he had told veteran journalist Bob Woodward he intentionally downplayed the pandemic. The reporting closely followed that of other news outlets in both tone and substance.

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The USAGM declined to comment to NPR, but 30 minutes after being contacted the agency issued a memo titled “Guidance on Conflicts of Interest” to staff. The memo states, for example, that a "journalist who on Facebook 'likes' a comment or political cartoon that aggressively attacks or disparages the President must recuse themselves from covering the President."

VOA is subject to strict laws barring political interference or influence on its reporting. Earlier this year, Vice President Pence’s staff threatened action against Herman after he reported on Pence flouting the Mayo Clinic’s mask requirement during a visit during the pandemic.

Six USAGM officials filed a whistleblower complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the State Department’s office of inspector general last week, claiming political appointees were attempting to steer coverage and that CEO Michael Pack suspended them for questioning his leadership.

Trump appointed Pack in June.

Herman joined several colleagues in late August signing a letter of protest to acting VOA Director Elez Biberaj, saying Pack had placed foreign VOA reporters in danger by denying their visa renewals.

The Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection nonprofit, filed its own complaint after the new conflict-of-interest memo went out.

Pack has been open about his beliefs that VOA coverage is biased against Trump and has flouted the fairness provisions of its charter. He told Fox News contributor Sara Carter last month that “people need to suffer consequences.”