Lowey, Engel Demand Explanation for New USAGM CEO's Firing of Senior Officials, Disbanding of Advisory Boards

June 19, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17/Rockland-Westchester), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Congressman Eliot L. Engel (D-NY16/Bronx-Westchester), sent a letter to the new Chief Executive Officer and Director of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) Michael Pack expressing outrage and demanding documents related to the firing of senior officials and disbanding of advisory boards of government-sponsored broadcast networks for foreign audiences.

In their letter, the Members wrote, “In your introductory email to U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) staff, you stated that you had three broad goals as you join the Agency. In the third goal, you acknowledged that bipartisan support created your position of CEO and that you would confer extensively with Agency staff and ‘consult with all stakeholders, including Congress.’ Unfortunately, your actions this week came without any such consultations and undermined any sense of bipartisanship.”

The letter to Mr. Pack follows a statement made by Chairs Lowey and Engel criticizing the new CEO for taking the helm of the agency with the goal of prioritizing the Trump administration’s political whims over protecting and promoting independent reporting.

“We take seriously our responsibility to provide oversight of the USAGM and to ensure it is adequately resourced to fulfill its mandate in providing fair, independent, ethical reporting to global audiences. We expect you to do the same, and not to put political priorities over your responsibility to advance the USAGM’s core mission,” the Members wrote.

Full text of the letter can be found here as a pdf and below.      

June 19, 2020

Mr. Michael Pack
Chief Executive Officer and Director
U.S. Agency for Global Media

Dear Mr. Pack:

We were outraged to learn that in your first week on the job, you fired top officials of broadcast networks for foreign audiences in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East and replaced their advisory boards with new boards comprised of yourself, your chief of staff, Trump Administration appointees, and the senior counsel of an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group. In your introductory email to U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) staff, you stated that you had three broad goals as you join the Agency. In the third goal, you acknowledged that bipartisan support created your position of CEO and that you would confer extensively with Agency staff and “consult with all stakeholders, including Congress.” Unfortunately, your actions this week came without any such consultations and undermined any sense of bipartisanship.

As the chairs of the House Appropriations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, we take seriously our responsibility to provide oversight of the USAGM and to ensure it is adequately resourced to fulfill its mandate in providing fair, independent, ethical reporting to global audiences. We expect you to do the same, and not to put political priorities over your responsibility to advance the USAGM’s core mission. Now, more than ever, it is critical that the USAGM staff are enabled and empowered to do this critical work and to continue the longstanding practice of not getting entangled in politics – and especially that they are not expected to shift their practice to propagandize or mislead audiences at the Trump Administration’s whim.

By June 29, 2020, please provide the following to Steve Marchese on the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Relations and to Tim Mulvey on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs: Any and all documents relating to, referring to or regarding the performance, views, and/or potential termination or replacement of Alberto Fernandez, Jamie Fly, Bay Fang, and Libby Liu. The timeframe for this request is January 20, 2017, to the present.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. We urge USAGM to adhere to the law and use appropriated funds to advance the principles of freedom and democracy on behalf of the American people.

Sincerely,

 

REPRESENTATIVE NITA M. LOWEY
Chairwoman
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives       

 

REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT L. ENGEL
Chairman
Committee on Foreign Affairs
U.S. House of Representatives

 

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