Voice of America
Two political appointees at the federal agency that oversees the Voice of America recently investigated one of its most prominent journalists to make the case he was biased against President Trump, NPR has learned.
They compiled an extensive report deemed “confidential” on VOA White House bureau chief Steve Herman, claiming that in his reporting and tweets that Herman had been unfair to Trump and had broken the broadcaster’s standards and social media policies. And they repeatedly cited a “conflict of interest,” based on their conclusions from Herman’s social media postings, including his own tweets and his “likes,” according to materials reviewed by NPR. The findings were quietly presented to acting Voice of America Director Elez Biberaj for action two weeks ago.
In so doing, the two men appear to have violated laws and regulations intended to protect the federally funded news outlet from political interference or influence. That has set off alarms within the VOA newsroom, already unnerved by investigations of coverage of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by VOA’s Urdu language service and the tenor of language used to describe his wife, Jill Biden, to introduce a segment on VOA’s French to Africa language service.
NPR spoke to three people who had knowledge of the episode and another five for other elements of this story. It is not clear what Biberaj has done with the file. Herman, who declined comment for this story, is perhaps the most public face of VOA. He has been its bureau chief in India, South Korea and Thailand as well as the network’s senior diplomatic correspondent.
Earlier this year, Herman drew the ire of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff after revealing the vice president had not worn a mask inside the Mayo Clinic despite his office’s awareness of the hospital’s policy requiring it ahead of time. And Herman last week filed a first-person dispatch about being barred from Joe Biden’s campaign plane over concerns of COVID-19. Herman had traveled on Air Force One a day earlier — just before news broke that White House communications director Hope Hicks and the president had tested positive for the virus.
The investigation of Herman is the latest and perhaps the most blatant in a growing series of episodes pointing to the politicization of the international broadcaster since Trump’s pick, Michael Pack, became CEO of its parent agency. Pack took over the U.S.