Along with other sweeping changes during his first days in office, President Biden on Thursday quickly removed reputed allies of former President Donald Trump from the Voice of America (VOA) news outlet and its parent agency, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).
Voice of America’s director, Robert Reilly, and deputy director, Elizabeth Robbins, were removed from the government-funded broadcaster over longstanding Democratic fears it was turning into a pro-Trump propaganda outlet.
Reilly was replaced by VOA veteran journalist Yolanda Lopez. Reilly had recently controversially demoted a White House correspondent under Lopez’s supervision after she tried to ask then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a question during a VOA event. Pompeo had given a talk but wasn’t taking reporters’ questions.
VOA is an independent broadcaster, funded by Congress, that was created during World War II.
Reilly and Robbins were escorted from the building by security, agency officials speaking to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity said.
Both Reilly and Robbins claimed their dismissals were illegal, NBC News reported and Robbins called hers “politically motivated.”
Reilly had just taken the job a few weeks ago.
Jeffrey Shapiro, director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, another U.S. funded outlet that reports news to Cubans, also resigned, USAGM confirmed.
The director of USAGM, Michael Pack, also resigned Wednesday, at the request of the Biden administration.
Pack, a conservative filmmaker and former associate of Steve Bannon, created a furor when he took over the agency last year and fired the boards of all the outlets under his control along with the leadership of the individual broadcast networks. The actions were criticized as threatening the broadcasters’ prized editorial independence.
As recently as Tuesday, Pack was appointing new conservative members to the boards of some of the agency’s international outlets.
Kelu Chao, another VOA veteran journalist of nearly 4 decades of experience, has taken over as the interim head of USAGM, the Biden administration announced last week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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