(Washington, DC) – In response to news that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may vote this week on the long-stalled nomination of Michael Pack to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees all the U.S. government’s international broadcasting enterprises, PEN America noted the danger to journalistic integrity and public diplomacy that his nomination represents.

“There is a real prospect that Pack would turn these important broadcasting outlets into propaganda tools for the president’s personal narratives about U.S. and world affairs,” said Thomas O. Melia, PEN America’s Washington director. “The White House has repeatedly lashed out at Voice of America, with the president making false accusations against the agency’s credibility, specifically in the context of China’s actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, to have this nomination resurface at a moment of crisis when attentions are focused elsewhere, it’s cause for concern by all those who value a free and independent press.”

Last month the White House publicly criticized Voice of America, with President Trump himself falsely accusing VOA of mimicking Chinese propaganda and presenting biased statistics, when in fact VOA was citing highly credible data from Johns Hopkins University, and reporting truthfully to the Chinese people about their own government’s attempts to conceal from them the truth about the pandemic. On April 15, the President complained that some of his nominees, including Pack, were not being confirmed.

Melia said, “U.S. international media comprise a vital component of the nation’s public diplomacy effort, which seeks to combat disinformation and those fomenting violent extremism by bringing accurate news to audiences in countries where governments prevent independent professional journalism. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee must ensure that Pack is the right person to be entrusted with overseeing this important work.”

Last week, ten Senators sent a letter to the committee chair about Pack’s admission that he gave false statements to the IRS and raising additional concerns over not having a full opportunity to question the nominee.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.