Right-Wing Filmmaker Confirmed to Head Voice of America

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington. (Courthouse News photo/Jack Rodgers)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Senate on Thursday confirmed a conservative filmmaker whose nonprofit is under investigation to lead the agency that oversees Voice of America.

Following a 53-38 vote on Thursday afternoon, Michael Pack will serve as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, an independent federal agency that runs several government-funded media networks, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

Pack has previously served as senior vice president at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and was a member of the National Council on the Humanities during the George W. Bush administration.

Pack has worked with Steve Bannon, the former head of the right-wing Breitbart News and adviser to President Donald Trump. Trump has been vocal in his criticism of Voice of America, including recently claiming the organization has been too soft in its coverage of China during the coronavirus pandemic.  

“Congratulations to Michael Pack!” Trump tweeted Thursday. “Nobody has any idea what a big victory this is for America. Why? Because he is going to be running the VOICE OF AMERICA… and everything associated with it.”

In a 2018 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Bannon called Voice of America “a rotten fish from top to bottom” and accused the organization of being “totally controlled by the deep-state apparatus.” The Times reported Bannon had been advocating for Trump to take more control over the outlet.

Democrats have expressed concern that Pack will not keep Voice of America and the other government-funded organizations he oversees separate from the White House, allowing Trump to assert influence over the outlets.   

Pack’s nomination, which first came to the Senate in 2018, faced additional scrutiny last month after Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, revealed that a nonprofit Pack operates was under investigation by the District of Columbia Attorney General’s Office.

According to Menendez, the city’s attorney general is probing whether Pack improperly transferred grants his nonprofit, Public Media Lab, received into his for-profit production company.

On Thursday, Menendez called Pack a “blatantly flawed nominee,” saying he was not candid with the committee about tax filings related to the matters now under investigation.

“If Mr. Pack is confirmed, the new bar for advice and consent is now set below that of a nominee who is under open investigation by law enforcement and who blatantly provided Congress and the executive branch false information,” Menendez said Thursday. 

Senator Jim Risch, the Idaho Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, defended Pack as “uniquely qualified” for the job, pointing to a recent documentary the nominee produced about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

“There’s been a political fight over him for two years and one day — today is the moment of truth,” Risch said.

In addition to his work in broadcasting, Pack worked as president and CEO of the conservative Claremont Institute from 2015 to 2017, serving as publisher of its Claremont Review of Books.

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