In the case of the VOA director, Pack had pushed out a longtime career journalist as acting director and replaced him with Robert Reilly, the author of books like Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything and The Closing of the Muslim Mind.
Elez Biberaj, the former acting director, wrote at the time that “Attempts to trample VOA’s journalistic independence threatened to undermine our hard-won credibility at a time of global democratic backsliding and increased international threats to America’s values and moral leadership.”
With just days to go before inauguration, Reilly hammered home that point by removing VOA’s White House reporter for daring to ask then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo some questions.
Pack’s interim replacement is Kelu Chao, a journalist who has been at VOA for decades and was part of a whistleblowing case against Pack last fall as he carried out a purge of USAGM managers. She has named fellow longtime VOA journalist Yolanda Lopez as acting director of VOA. Lopez was reassigned just last week as part of the questions-to-Pompeo disciplinary action.
These changes highlight the corruption of what Trump was trying to do. Biden hasn’t brought in new people or made big changes—he’s just elevated career journalists who built their careers at VOA itself. But Team Trump’s efforts to turn USAGM and VOA into Trump mouthpieces put those people’s careers, often decades-long careers, at risk because they didn’t meet the loyalty test.
The permanent head of USAGM will require Senate confirmation.