Michael Pack said he was taking the step consistent with his authority as the new CEO of the overall agency.
WASHINGTON — The new chief of U.S.-funded international broadcasting on Wednesday fired the heads of at least three outlets he oversees and replaced their boards with allies, in a move likely to raise fears that he intends to turn the Voice of America and its sister outlets into Trump administration propaganda machines.
U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO Michael Pack informed those he dismissed in email notices sent late Wednesday just hours after he had sought to play down those concerns in an email to staff saying he is committed to ensuring the independence of the broadcasters who are charged with delivering independent news and information to audiences around the world.
Two congressional aides said that among those removed from their positions were the head of Radio Free Asia, Bay Fang, the head of Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, Jamie Fly, and the head of the Middle East Broadcasting Network, Alberto Fernandez. The director and deputy director of the Voice of America, Amanda Bennett and Sandy Sugawara, had resigned from their positions on Monday.
Pack, a conservative filmmaker and one-time associate of President Donald Trump’s former political adviser Steve Bannon, said in a notices to those fired that he was taking the step consistent with his authority as the new CEO of the overall agency. It gave no reason for his decisions.
He added in the notices that he expected the agency’s new board of directors, chaired by himself, to approve the decision. In a separate messages, Pack also announced that he had removed all the current members of the broadcasters’ respective boards and installed his own team, with officials from various agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget and Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The firings came after Pack had tried to allay mounting concerns about his intentions at the agency in an email to staff in which he said he is “committed to maintaining the agency’s independence and adhering to VOA’s charter and the principles.”
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, denounced the firings as an “egregious breach” of the agency’s mission. Menendez had led an unsuccessful fight to block or at least delay Pack’s confirmation.
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