Massachusetts Democrat calls for Voice of America chief to resign

Massachusetts Democrat calls for Voice of America chief to resign
© Greg Nash

Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyBudowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey The Hill's Campaign Report: Even the Post Office is political now | Primary action tonight | Super PACS at war Markey offers apology to family of unarmed Black teen amid criticism MORE III (D-Mass.) called Tuesday for the resignation of Michael Pack, CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), accusing him of managing the agency in an openly partisan manner.

Pack, a Trump appointee who took over as head of the USAGM in June, has since removed or pushed out the heads of the agency's news outlets — including Voice of America (VOA) — and replaced the members of the organization's bipartisan advisory board with conservative appointees.

"Since taking office, you have undertaken sweeping changes that call into question USAGM’s status as an independent news organization with the apparent goal of advancing the partisan interests of the Trump Administration. I call on you to resign from your position immediately," Kennedy wrote to Pack in a letter reviewed by The Hill.

ADVERTISEMENT

Kennedy is the first member of Congress to openly call for Pack's resignation, following a series of scandals at the USAGM.

Representatives for the USAGM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pack's tenure at the USAGM, formerly the Broadcasting Board of Governors, was controversial before it began: President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE first sought to appoint him in September, but the nomination process was dogged by debate about whether the conservative Pack would maintain the institution's nonpartisan positions and an ongoing investigation into whether Pack had funneled money from a nonprofit organization into his production company.

Pack, a conservative filmmaker, first made headlines for pushing out the news agency heads, including VOA's Amanda Bennett, who resigned shortly after his appointment.

At the time, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHuffPost reporter discusses progressives' successful showing on Tuesday Ex-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets Progressives soaring after big primary night MORE (D-N.Y.) warned that the committee would "be keeping a very close eye on our broadcasters as Mr. Pack takes the reins."

ADVERTISEMENT

In his letter, Kennedy reprimanded Pack for removing the agency heads and replacing the members of the bipartisan advisory board with "conservative operatives, including five political appointees of the Trump administration."

"For decades, these organizations have served behind a firewall that has shielded them from political interference from government officials. Never has this firewall been more at threat than it is today under your leadership," wrote Kennedy.

Pack also angered Democrats after NPR reported that he would not renew the visas of foreign-born VOA journalists, many of whom could be endangered by being forced to return to their countries.

"Thus far, a total of at least ten journalists working for VOA have been informed they will not have their visas renewed. According to a report by VOA, other journalists have only 'a few weeks left before they could be forced to return to their home countries, where some fear retribution because of VOA’s reporting,'" wrote Kennedy.

In his letter, Kennedy quoted Matt Armstrong, a former Republican appointee to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, who said, “Failing to renew [visas] may result in harsh penalties for some of these reporters and their families, from jail to even death.”

Kennedy wrote that questions regarding Pack's "ability to lead USAGM are not new," citing an ongoing D.C. attorney general investigation into Pack's alleged funneling of nonprofit funds.

"As CEO, you have failed to uphold the independence with which USAGM and its networks rely out of a clear desire to advance the partisan interests of the Trump Administration. I reiterate my call for you to resign immediately," wrote Kennedy.