Did you know that the Republicans inserted a change to the administration of the Voice of America (VOA) network in the December military authorization ‘must pass’ bill? The VOA has always been administered by a bipartisan broadcasting board of governors–distinguished nonpartisan media experts. The change was to have the $800 million budget Voice of America run by a CEO appointed by and directly responsible to the President of the United States.
Trump has now appointed (maybe temporarily) two twenty-something Trump political operatives to oversee the VOA. Matthew Schuck is a 2012 graduate from the nondescript Montgomery College who got his start with the Heritage Foundation and then the (alt) right-wing site Daily Surge and worked for the Trump campaign in Wisconsin. The other, Matt Ciepielowski, does not have even that modicum of (mis)understanding of journalistic standards: he is a 2012 graduate of Quinnipiac University and a Republican political strategist who worked for the right-wing Americans for Prosperity organization before he became the NH state director for the Trump campaign. He also has ties to Ron Paul (Texas libertarian). See, e.g., Trump moves to put his own stamp on Voice of America, Politico.com (Jan. 23, 2017); Donald Trump sends two aides to Voice of America studios, raising fears he’s going to politicize the outlet, Salon.com (Jan. 24, 2017).
In other words, it appears that the Trump enterprise in the White House wants to convert the Voice Of America into a propaganda arm for Trump’s “alternative facts” reality show in the White House, just as Sean Spicer, the Press Secretary, has served as a spouter of misinformation and what Trump’s “beliefs” are rather than what the actual facts are. Compare Kellyanne Conway’s statement that we shouldn’t listen to what Trump says but should “look at what’s in his heart”. See e.g., Aaron Blake, Kellyanne Conway’s laughable ‘look at what’s in his heart’ defense of Donald Trump, Washington Post (Jan. 9, 2017). Just ways of claiming that lies and distortions don’t matter and allowing Trump political operatives to say whatever they want.
The Voice of America director Amanda Bennett did pull a tweet on Spicer’s erroneous statement reiterating Trump’s “biggest inauguration ever” claim. Her claim is that stories aren’t “balanced” unless they have a response from the Trump administration. That’s hooey. Having to have Trump’s version of alternative facts embedded in every VOA story converts the story from news to propaganda.
This is sounding more and more like a tin pot dictatorship. As Stuart Stevens tweeted (noted in the Politico article cited above): “Irony is that VOA’s reason for existing was to provide truth to those who lived where the government controlled the press.” (emphasis added)
And this matters for tax policy. Ask yourself. How can we have any kind of legitimate discussion or legislation on tax when the Trump administration distorts information and presents “alternative facts” that suit the 70-year-old narcissist in the White House, whether or not they have anything to do with the evidence or issues at hand?