WASHINGTON – The acting chief of the U.S. Global Media Agency has sacked the leaders of several federally funded news outlets as part of the Biden administration’s sweeping effort to rid the agency of allies of President Donald J. Trump.
Acting chief, Kelu Chao, fired the heads of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network on Friday evening, according to two people familiar with the matter.
They had been appointed in December by the agency’s then executive director Michael Pack, an ally of former Trump aide Stephen K. Bannon, to remove what he believed was partisan from the news outlets. Numerous current and former employees of the agency had accused Mr. Pack of trying to turn it into a mouthpiece for the Trump administration.
A spokeswoman for the US agency for global media declined to comment.
The layoffs previously reported by NPR and Politicoare the latest in a series of changes to the U.S. Global Media Agency and the federal government-funded news outlets that it oversees under Biden’s administration.
On Thursday the Director of Voice of America and his deputy were removed from their posts and the head of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting also resigned. The day before, Mr. Pack resigned at the request of the Biden administration.
Ted Lipien, who directed Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, was once a senior official with V.O.A. and became a sharp critic of the media agency. Stephen J. Yates, who headed Radio Free Asia, previously served as leader of the Idaho Republican Party and also served as deputy national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. Victoria Coates, who ran the Middle East Broadcasting Network, was the deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration.
Mr. Biden was expected to make significant changes to the media agency. In the final days of the Trump administration, Voice of America came under fire for reassigning a White House correspondent who tried to question former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a town hall event at the outlet’s Washington headquarters.
After Mr. Pack resigned, the Biden administration quickly installed Ms. Chao, a longtime employee at Voice of America, to replace him. Yolanda Lopez, who, as director of the V.O.A. served, was also named Acting Director of Voice of America, succeeding Robert R. Reilly, who was named by Mr. Pack.
Mr. Pack’s tenure with the United States Global Media Agency was one of significant upheaval. After his takeover, he fired the managing directors of four news agencies under his responsibility along with their board of directors.
He was also charged with firing employees who were critical of his leadership. starving organizations under his jurisdiction from core funding; and to try to withhold visa approvals for at least 76 foreign journalists on Voice of America for classifying them as a security risk.
At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in September, lawmakers from both parties accused Mr. Pack of undermining the agency’s mission, which includes fighting disinformation in countries like Russia, China, Hong Kong, North Korea, Iran and Belarus belongs. Mr. Pack ignored a subpoena from Congress to attend the hearing.