Biden Choice of Amanda Bennett to Run Voice of America Parent Agency Could Face Trouble

From a Washington Post story by Paul Farhi headlined “Biden’s favorite to run Voice of America parent agency could face trouble with Senate GOP”:

A veteran journalist who is the White House’s leading candidate to run Voice of America’s parent agency has begun to attract conservative criticism, raising the prospect of a lengthy confirmation battle if she is nominated.

Amanda Bennett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and editor, is President Biden’s top candidate to run the U.S. Agency for Global Media… The agency oversees VOA, Radio Free Europe and three other international news networks that received about $630 million in funding from the federal government last year.

Bennett, 69, was the director of Voice of America from 2016-2020; she resigned last year just before the arrival of the agency’s new chief executive, Michael Pack, a Trump appointee who set off a brief but tumultuous period in which he quickly fired the heads of the other Agency for Global Media-run networks and replaced them with his own picks.

Biden fired Pack, a conservative documentary filmmaker, almost immediately after he was sworn into office on Jan. 20. He replaced Pack with an acting interim chief executive, Kelu Chao….

Chao’s interim term will expire on Nov. 15, and under federal regulations she cannot be extended indefinitely.

But opposition to Bennett’s prospective appointment has been bubbling up in conservative circles.

USAGM Watch, a blog that has been critical of the agency’s management for years, wrote earlier this month that Senate confirmation of Bennett “would offend immigrant voters [and risk] more scandals” at USAGM.

It cited “controversies” during her tenure at VOA, such as criticism from Iranian, Cuban and Chinese Americans that the broadcaster had been insufficiently critical of human-rights abuses in its news coverage of Iran, Cuba and China.

The blog is run by Ted Lipien, whom Pack appointed last December to head Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; he was ousted a few weeks later when Biden assumed office….

Bennett landed in the spotlight early last year when the Trump White launched an unprecedented attack on VOA, an agency created by the federal government in 1942 to counter Nazi wartime propaganda.

It began with an unsigned statement the White House posted on its official blog headlined, “Amid a Pandemic, Voice of America Spends Your Money to Promote Foreign Propaganda,” accusing VOA of uncritically reporting the Chinese government’s claims about the then-emerging coronavirus pandemic. Bennett vigorously defended VOA and denied the White House criticism.

The attack dovetailed with an attempt to rally congressional Republicans to confirm Pack, whose nomination had been stalled for more than two years over questions about his private filmmaking company and his ties to Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon. Pack was confirmed soon after the White House’s broadside on VOA.

During his brief tenure, Pack sought to strip away a regulation known as the “firewall” rule that protects the news networks from editorial interference. Chao reversed many of his initiatives and reappointed managers he had sidelined.

It’s not clear whether Biden’s nominee to run the U.S. Agency for Global Media will face as much opposition in the Senate as Pack did, but the emergence of even a single opponent in the Senate can stall confirmation for months….

Bennett was previously the top editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Lexington Herald-Leader, as well as executive editor of Bloomberg News. As a reporter for the Wall Street Journal in 1997, she was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. She oversaw the editing of a series in the Oregonian newspaper that was awarded the Pulitzer’s public-service medal in 2001.

She was also formerly a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, and is married to Don Graham, The Post’s former publisher and chief executive of its former parent company….

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post’s media reporter. He started at The Post in 1988 and has been a financial reporter, a political reporter and a Style reporter.

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