No sooner had Michael Pack, CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, announced the appointment of Robert Reilly to run the Voice of America than the long and stabbing liberal knives came out. Lost amidst many of the other Cancel War battles, Mr. Reilly — who has written for National Review, and whose 2020 book, America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding, received a very praiseworthy review in our pages — finds himself the subject of ouster calls, in part because of his opposition to ideological newsrooms, and also because of decades of affirming conservative and Catholic positions.
There’s a familiarity to this snowballing leftist campaign, which readers will recall has been led by the likes of America’s new vice president, who, when a U.S. senator, tried to block judicial nominees who were members of the Knights of Columbus. No matter that the application of religious tests to public-office holders is forbidden, but the Constitution be damned — it may have its verbiage, but the prevailing strategy for many activists of the Kamala Harris persuasion comes down to Christians need not apply. And that means you, Bob.
This is not the first VOA go-round for Reilly — he ran the agency from 2001–2002, after having overseen its weekly foreign-policy talk show, On the Line, for the preceding decade. His other public roles include being a top official in the Reagan White House’s Office of Public Liaison, assisting Faith Whittlesey when she was U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, and serving as a platoon leader in the Armored Cavalry. The former president of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute is also the author of several books on foreign and domestic policy, and it is his 2014 work — Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything — that is being used by VOA’s ideologically charged staffers to claim he is an extremist, is baggage-saddled, “dangerous” too, and needs to get the boot, a mantra that has been picked up by Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who will be chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Aside from their collective ideological bias — VOA journalists, just like their counterparts in America’s preeminent newsrooms, brook no conservatism — there is the staff chafing at the direction both Reilly and Pack expect of the government-run and -funded information services — that the agency exists to explain America to the world.
(Which comes as news to the Urdu language service staff, which thought it existed to create and broadcast a campaign video of Joe Biden appealing for Muslim votes.)
In his speech upon his early December appointment, Reilly was clear about expectations and purpose:
Having lived and worked overseas, I am familiar with the distorted views of the United States that many people have formed, not only from foreign propaganda and disinformation, but from some American popular entertainment and the almost constant self-criticism in which the American people are engaged. The latter is a sign of a healthy democracy and a source of our strength, but our audiences need to understand the broader framework within which this takes place. That is why the VOA Charter requires us to represent America in a balanced and comprehensive way. It is vitally important that VOA fosters an understanding of American institutions and the principles behind them. No less important is our obligation to “present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively.” . . .
I firmly believe that VOA should not be an echo chamber for American domestic media, which is already largely available overseas on the internet. We have a different job. We need to offer our audiences what is otherwise not available to them. As I review what VOA is currently doing, the question foremost in my mind will be: what is the VOA value-added that will attract and serve our foreign audiences. What are we giving them that they cannot get elsewhere? Otherwise, why should they watch or listen?
Doesn’t he know that the new newsroom norm is that journos call the shots and set the policy — and demand that the heads of bosses must roll?
The effort to press Reilly out of his leadership role — and Pack too — will likely not relent. It merits the attention, confrontation, and remembrance by conservatives.