The White House has accused Democratic lawmakers of holding up the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media, after Michael Pack’s nonprofit organization came under investigation by the District of Columbia attorney general’s office for finance and tax issues.
“Yet again, America is watching a qualified and capable nominee be the target of a desperate smear campaign designed to intimidate and tarnish the good reputation of an exceptional man by those in power for political purposes, White House spokesman Judd Deere told VOA Saturday. “The President stands behind Michael Pack and is disappointed, but not surprised, that Do-Nothing-Democrats have once again decided to throw political mud on a public servant’s clean record.”
Trump declined Friday to comment on Pack when asked by reporters whether he was standing by Pack to lead USAGM, the agency that oversees Voice of America, the president instead criticized VOA.
“Voice of America is run in a terrible manner. They’re not the Voice of America. They’re the opposite of the Voice of America,” the president said. He did not elaborate.
The president has previously criticized Voice of America for its news coverage of China and has expressed frustration that his nominee to run VOA’s parent agency still has not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate nearly two years after his nomination, mainly because of concerns from Democrats.
In a statement Friday, VOA Director Amanda Bennett defended the U.S.-funded news agency’s mission and reporting.
“We export the First Amendment to people around the world who have no other access to factual, truthful, believable information,” she said.
“That’s why more than 80% of our 280 million audience in 47 languages in more than 60 countries say they find our work credible,” she added.
USAGM oversees five U.S. civilian broadcast networks, which includes VOA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the Arabic-language stations Alhurra Television and Radio Sawa of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN).
On Thursday, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said a nonprofit organization run by filmmaker and media executive Pack was under investigation by the District of Columbia attorney general’s office.
New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez said the district's attorney general was investigating whether Pack’s use of funds from his nonprofit, Public Media Lab, was unlawful and whether he improperly used those funds to benefit himself.
Menendez said that since Pack's confirmation hearing in September, “Mr. Pack has refused to provide the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with documents it requested that get to the heart of the matter that the OAG [Office of Attorney General] is now investigating, or to correct false statements he made to the IRS.”
Menendez said he was urging the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Jim Risch of Idaho, to put the Pack nomination on hold. Risch postponed a scheduled vote on Thursday to advance Pack’s nomination.
VOA contacted Risch, who offered no comment, and Pack, who did not respond. However, someone with close knowledge of the nomination process said: “Michael Pack is honored to be nominated and appreciates the president's support. He looks forward to a speedy vote."
White House Bureau Chief Steve Herman contributed to this report.