Odds are you never heard of the U.S. Agency for Global Media. It’s made up of five U.S.-funded international broadcasters including the Voice of America, and its audience is 350 million foreigners a week in 70 languages. So you might ask why President Trump’s pick for head of that group, Michael Pack, got the ax minutes into the Biden administration? We recently asked him.
The following is a transcript of a report from "Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson." Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.
Sharyl: You were quite possibly the first Trump Administration person fired under the Biden Administration.
Michael Pack: I was. I got a call from the then President Biden's Office, 20 minutes after the inauguration, saying if I didn't resign by the end of the day they would fire me. I was told, and Politico reported that that was the first foreign policy decision of the Biden Administration. So that's kind of an honor, to be given that kind of importance.
Sharyl: What do you think made that so important, to get rid of the head of an agency that most people have never heard of?
Michael Pack: This agency is supposed to be balanced, objective, reflect all points of view. And over the last bunch of years, it had drifted way to the left, with very biased, distorted programming. And my attempt to move it back to the center, where it was supposed to be, was perceived by many on the left to be a loss of their power and their influence. And I think they took that pretty seriously.
Sharyl: Can you give a couple of examples of programming that you think unfairly leaned too far left without any balance?
Michael Pack: Well, one very notorious example is, there was a piece that ran on the Urdu Service, which is supposed to be targeted to Pakistan, but was really all in English with Urdu subtitles, and it was essentially a repackaged Biden ad. It was Biden speaking. "Your voice is your vote. Your vote is your voice. Muslim voices matter.” And then a spokesman for Biden, appealing to Arab-speaking people across the country, but especially in Michigan, where his speech originated, just to flip their vote for the Democrats. And it was really a repackaged ad with the VOA name on it.
Sharyl: While Biden was running for president?
Michael Pack: During the campaign, that's right. While Biden was running for president.
Sharyl: Was there any counterpoint from the Trump campaign?
Michael Pack: There was no counterpoint and there was no balancing viewpoint in there. And we asked the career people to investigate and to hold accountable the people responsible. And my effort to look at the responsibility for that was deemed an abridgment of the first amendment right of the people, of the reporters there...
Sharyl: ...who work for the government?
Michael Pack: They work for the government in the first place. They're not independent journalists in the sense of a reporter working for CNN or Fox. But also, I wasn't abridging anything. I was simply looking into this breach of their own charter. And not I, but the career people. But they perceived it to be an assault on their freedom.
Sharyl: Is the stated purpose of this media group to get the American position out to the rest of the world on its social issues and political issues?
Michael Pack: The mission is really to promote American ideals and principles to the world, like freedom and democracy. But unlike private, commercial news organizations, it is required by law to be balanced, to reflect the diversity of viewpoints across the spectrum of the American people, not one party or another.
Sharyl: Is it fair to say that things have changed though, that our founding ideals, let's say it's freedom and democracy, a lot of people may now consider those right-wing ideologies versus left-wing ideologies? And that we've now divided politically? We don't even all agree on what our ideology should be as a nation.
Michael Pack: I think that is a challenge for this organization. I think during the Cold War, there was still a consensus of what principles Americans believed in. But I agree with you Sharyl, that given the fact that that is frayed, if not torn, during this period, it's very hard for this agency to know what principles that it is representing.
Sharyl: What's the lesson in all of this, if there's a takeaway?
Michael Pack: Well, Sharyl, I come away from this feeling it is very hard to reform agencies. This agency is small by government standards, 4,000 people. But they simply did not feel the need to follow what I said or what President Trump said. On the other hand, I believe you can have an impact on the media and news and culture in the free market. And I think I come away believing that people who are right-of-center, as I am, need to step up their efforts in that area, or we will let the other side tell all the stories.
Sharyl (on-cam): The U.S. Agency for Global Media has an annual budget of about $850 million a year, making it one of the largest media organizations in the world.
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