House Democrat Subpoenas Head of Government’s Foreign Broadcast Media Agencies

September 18, 2020 Updated: September 18, 2020

A Democratic-controlled House panel issued a subpoena for Michael Pack, the CEO of several federal government news outlets, after the agency told the panel he would not appear at an upcoming hearing.

“Mr. Pack’s office informed the Committee last night that he intended to back out on his commitment to appear at a hearing on September 24,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Friday. “His office failed to provide any reasonable alternative dates and his excuse for breaking his commitment is not acceptable.”

Now, Engel’s committee will send out a subpoena to compel Pack to testify in front of the panel.

Pack is in charge of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which oversees Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and several other news outlets.

The USAGM was run by an appointee of President Barack Obama before Pack was confirmed about a year ago by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

michael pack 2
Michael Pack speaks at his nomination hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Sept. 19, 2019. (Screenshot of hearing video/U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations)

Pack was called to testify before the House Foreign Affairs earlier in the summer after he dismissed the heads of several international broadcast networks. Democratic lawmakers and some conservatives criticized the move at the time.

The USAGM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Previously, Pack said the personnel changes were a part of new leadership at the large organization.

Some veteran journalists for Voice of America (VOA), which is also overseen by USAGM, sent a letter in protest on Monday denouncing Pack while alleging that he is damaging the agenda of the broadcasters.

They alleged in a letter (pdf) sent late August that his decisions “endanger the personal security of VOA reporters at home and abroad, as well as threatening to harm U.S. national security objectives.”

Pack said in an interview with The Federalist on Aug. 27 that there is a deep-rooted bias at Voice of America and its affiliates and potential security problems.

“It’s one thing for CNN or MSNBC, or Fox for that matter to have a point of view, but this agency is required by law to be objective and represent all points of view. So it has to adhere to those standards, whatever the rest of the media does,” he said.

“There needs to be a separation between us the political appointees and what journalists are reporting. I would never tell a journalist how to cover a story or what to say,” Pack added. “However, I am there to make sure that the procedures and practices that ensure the highest journalistic standards and the contract of the VOA charter are fulfilled.”

But Pack also warned that the agency could be used as a tool for foreign agents and espionage.

“It’s a great place to put a foreign spy,” Pack said, saying there were significant security lapses by previous leadership.