May 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans move to confirm conservative filmmaker as VOA chief

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Senate Republicans are moving to swiftly confirm a conservative filmmaker to lead the independent agency in charge of Voice of America (VOA), the state-sponsored international news agency, per The New York Times.

Why it matters: The Trump administration has twice-nominated Michael Pack, but it's been held up in the Senate confirmation processes. Pack has received pushback from some Democrats for his ties to Steve Bannon.

  • Some Democrats still have hesitation. Last week, Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez, D-NJ, told the White House he had concerns about Pack’s business history, per CNBC.

The big picture: Broader concerns about VOA's independence arose after an Obama-era legal provision changed governance over the agency from a board of non-partisan directors to a CEO selected by the president.

  • Last month, the White House escalated its attacks on the VOA, saying it elevated Chinese propaganda. Many Democrats initially feared that the VOA would become a propaganda arm for the Trump administration, which journalists within the agency vehemently deny.
  • Sources say that while the White House began to publicly slam the VOA in April during the coronavirus, it had been been posturing against the group for many months.

By the numbers: The VOA broadcasts in more than 40 languages and reaches an estimated weekly audience of 280 million, mostly international.

  • The agency receives over $234.7 million in annual funding through the U.S. Agency for Global Media, formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
  • It's governed by a 40+ year-old charter that legally requires the VOA to report "accurate, objective, and comprehensive" news abroad. Sources say that firewall feels very strong within the VOA.

Go deeper: VOA journalists fight claims that it is Trump propaganda

Go deeper

Trump's week of viral quicksand

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Stories about President Trump's photo op at St. John's church after peaceful protesters were forcefully cleared from the area averaged the most online attention of any issue about the president this week.

Why it matters: Trump's force-over-compassion approach to the demonstrators protesting the murder of George Floyd had Republican allies backpedaling to keep a distance — and led to a wave of condemnations that got plenty of online traction on their own.

Biden formally secures Democratic presidential nomination

Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University's student cente on June 5. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden became the formal Democratic presidential nominee on Friday evening, per AP.

The big picture: Biden has been the presumptive frontrunner to take on President Trump since Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in early April.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 6,724.516 — Total deaths: 394,018 — Total recoveries — 2,996,832Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,894,753 — Total deaths: 109,042 — Total recoveries: 491,706 — Total tested: 19,231,444Map.
  3. Public health: WHCA president says White House violated social-distancing guidelines to make reporters "a prop" — Jailing practices contribute to spread.
  4. Sports: How coronavirus could reshuffle the sports calendar.
  5. Jobs: Better-than-expected jobs report boosts stock market.
  6. Media: The Athletic lays off 8% of staff, implements company-wide pay cut.