• Thu. Nov 26th, 2020

Congress subpoenas a Bannon ally who oversees a U.S. media agency over concerns of politicization.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee issued a subpoena on Friday to compel Michael Pack, the head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, to testify, amid concerns that he is turning federally funded news outlets like Voice of America into a partisan mouthpiece for the Trump administration.

Mr. Pack, a Steve Bannon ally and President Trump’s appointee to run the media agency, on Thursday abruptly canceled a scheduled appearance before the House committee on Sept. 24, according to Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the committee’s Democratic chairman.

Mr. Pack was expected to undergo tough questioning from House Democrats in next week’s hearing about his leadership of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Open Technology Fund.

“His excuse for breaking his commitment is not acceptable,” Mr. Engel said in a statement, saying Mr. Pack failed to provide any “reasonable alternative dates” for a new hearing.

Since taking over the agency in June, Mr. Pack has been criticized for taking actions that were seen as a concerted attempt to turn federally funded, independent news outlets under his purview into partisan entities.

Days after taking over, he fired the heads of the four media outlets and an internet freedom nonprofit, and replaced the nonpartisan board which oversees those entities with several Trump administration allies. He has threatened to withhold visa approvals for at least 76 foreign journalists at V.O.A. who were recruited to translate news into languages like Swahili and Mandarin, putting many at risk of deportation.

In an August report, Mr. Pack indicated that those journalists posed a potential security risk to the agency because of alleged “systemic security failures” in their background screening. He then suspended many of the senior career officials who disagreed with his leadership.

Weeks later, 14 journalists at Voice of America said Mr. Pack’s actions “risk crippling” the news outlet’s mission to bring unbiased news to censored societies across the world.

They also expressed concern at comments Mr. Pack made in a recent interview saying Voice of America is “a great place to put a foreign spy.” In the interview, Mr. Pack said his goal as head of the agency is to “drain the swamp.”