Withheld Records Could Reveal Information About Seismic Behind-the-Scenes Personnel and Policy Changes Aimed at Turning Gov’t Agency Into Trump Propaganda Outlet 

Washington, D.C. — Today, Democracy Forward sued the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) for failing to release records that would shed light on the personnel and policy changes considered and implemented by the agency’s freshly-installed, Steve Bannon acolyte CEO, Michael Pack. In July, Democracy Forward sent a Freedom of Information Act request to USAGM, the federal agency that oversees Voice of America (VOA) and similar media outlets. USAGM has ignored its statutory obligations and failed to produce any documents.

In his brief tenure at USAGM, Pack — a conservative filmmaker with close ties to former Breitbart News executive chairman and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon — has ushered in a disruptive personnel shakeup and extensive changes:

  • VOA’s director and deputy director resigned mere weeks after Pack’s confirmation
  • In one fell swoop, dubbed a “Wednesday night massacre,” Pack fired the officials leading Middle East Broadcasting (MEB), Radio Free Asia (RFA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the Office of Cuban Broadcasting (OCB), and the Open Technology Fund (OTF)
  • Pack also forced VOA’s general counsel and standards editor out
  • Jeffrey Shapiro — another ally of the president with close ties to Steve Bannon — was tapped to lead OCB as acting director
  • USAGM political appointees investigated VOA’s White House bureau chief Steve Herman for supposed anti-Trump bias

Additionally, in recent weeks, Pack defied a congressional subpoena seeking his testimony.

President Trump has already suggested that Pack’s leadership would help shift VOA from what he deemed the voice of “communists.” Out of concern that the Trump administration is using the federally-funded broadcast agency to facilitate pro-Trump propaganda, Democracy Forward requested the following records:

  • All records sent or received by Michael Pack discussing leadership changes at USGAM or any of its subsidiaries
  • All communications between Pack and Steve Bannon
  • All records sent between Pack and any individuals affiliated with Fox News, Breitbart News Network, or One America News Network

As part of an ongoing examination, Democracy Forward has investigated and uncovered potentially illegal coordination between Trump-led agencies and conservative media outlets. Learn more about our work exposing the Trump administration’s propaganda efforts.

The lawsuit was filed on October 7 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Read the complaint here.

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Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

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