The Senate moved to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the global media agency that oversees the Voice of America.
Michael Pack, a documentary filmmaker, would serve as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which also provides grants to overseas outlets like Radio Free Europe and Middle East Broadcasting Networks. The Senate voted 53-39 to end debate on his nomination, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) voting with Republicans. A final vote is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Other Democrats, led by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), objected to his confirmation while Pack’s nonprofit, Public Media Lab, is under investigation by the D.C. Attorney General, Karl Racine.
On the Senate floor on Thursday, Menendez used charts to outline claims that Pack used donations from Public Media Lab, for his own benefit.
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“Given his alleged use of a small non profit for self-enrichment, can we trust that he will not use the massive resources of the U.S. government to line his own pockets?”
Pack did not immediately respond to requests for comment placed at his production company.
But opponents to his nomination fear that Pack will bend to Trump’s wishes, as the president has been blistering in his criticism of Voice of America. He has accused the outlet of being “disgusting toward our country” in their coverage, while the White House accused it of spreading Chinese propaganda in their coverage of the coronavirus crisis.
VOA director Amanda Bennett, however, pushed back against the criticism and outlined how they have captured all sides of the story of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has pushed Senate Republicans to move on Pack’s nomination, which has been lingering for two years.
Pack has collaborated with Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, on documentary projects. Pack also directed a documentary on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that debuted last month.
At his confirmation hearing last year, Pack was asked about the issue of maintaining independence from the desires of the White House.
“The whole agency rests on the belief the reporters are independent, that no political influence is telling them how to report the news and what to say,” Pack said. “Without that trust, I think, the agency is completely undermined.”
CNBC reported last year that at least $1.6 million from his non-profit, Public Media Lab, went to his company, Manifold Productions.
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