The Voice of America's anti-Trump show
The Voice of America (VOA) is the official broadcaster for the U.S. government, and in 2016, its taxpayer-funded budget request was $207 million.
According to its mandate, the VOA "broadcasts accurate, balanced, and comprehensive news and information to an international audience." The VOA Charter, signed into law by President Gerald Ford, requires the following:
1. VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.
2. VOA will represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.
3. VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies. (Public Law 94-350) ...
The accuracy, quality, and credibility of the Voice of America are its most important assets, and they rest on listeners' perception of VOA as an objective source of world, regional, and U.S. news and information... VOA employees recognize that their conduct both on and off the job can reflect on the work of the Voice of America community. They adhere to the highest standards of journalistic professionalism and integrity. They work to foster teamwork, goodwill, and civil discourse in the workplace and with their colleagues everywhere in the world, all to enhance the credibility and effectiveness of the Voice of America.
One of VOA's flagship programs is Issues in the News, where "[p]rominent Washington correspondents discuss topics making headlines around the world."
The regular moderators on the program include Fred Barnes, the executive editor of The Weekly Standard, and Barbara Slavin, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center and Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor.com.
During the GOP primaries, the program has repeatedly focused on the Republican nomination race, and in particular on Donald Trump. To say the coverage and discussion of Trump has been less than flattering would be an understatement.
Of course, Barnes's position at The Weekly Standard falls under that of Bill Kristol, the outlet's founder and editor and a rabid Trump opponent who is still trying to find an independent candidate to run against Trump. Consequently, it is hard to see how VOA avoids either a real or apparent conflict of interest and a potential violation of its charter by having such an individual regularly moderate and speak on the Trump candidacy, given his direct connections to one of the leading anti-Trump media outlets and #NeverTrump ringleaders.
Even more egregious is the situation of Slavin. Her regular moderation of the program when discussing Trump can be contextualized by a cursory examination of her Twitter feed, which contains a littany of personal attacks on Trump.
For example, on August 7, 2015, Slavin sent the following to another Twitter user: ""#Trump is the pig and hard to imagine any woman in her right mind voting for him."
Then, on February 27, 2016, she recommended sending Trump to Iran.
About a month later, she mocked Trump for an apparent loan he received from his father: "Poor #trump his daddy loaned him only $1 million."
Just a few days ago, she expressed her view that Trump is not likely fluent in the pronunciation of French pastries: "doubt Trump can pronounce croissant."
Other postings by Slavin refer to Trump's purported misogynistic nature, among other negative and subjective views of his candidacy.
Well, this certainly sounds like a VOA representative who is "accurate" and "objective," presenting a "balanced projection of significant American thought," holding "responsible opinions" and "adhering to the highest standards of professionalism" while "fostering goodwill," as are required under the VOA Charter.
Were this a private broadcaster, there would be no issues. But as a public broadcaster, VOA is legally obligated to avoid any perceptions of bias. Consequently, not only does Trump need to look at either shutting down VOA or substantially reforming it if he becomes president, but formal complaints should be lodged in the interim to ensure that all VOA coverage of his campaign is conducted by truly fair and balanced individuals.