Controversial right-wing radio host and former Donald Trump aide Sebastian Gorka may take a leadership role in the taxpayer-funded agency that supervises the Voice of America, CNN reported, citing a “well-placed” source.
Gorka, a divisive figure who departed the Trump White House in 2017, has emerged as a candidate for a role atop the U.S. Agency for Global Media, according to the cable channel.
The installation of a stridently pro-Trump mouthpiece would further shake the leadership ranks of Voice of America, the U.S.-funded international news agency with a record of independent reporting, and inflame fears that the White House aims to mold it into a propaganda empire. HuffPost couldn’t reach Gorka for comment.
Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker and friend of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, is taking over as head of the Agency for Global Media after the Senate finally succumbed to White House pressure to confirm him.
The Voice of America’s top two editors ― both veteran journalists appointed during the Obama administration ― resigned on Monday, citing Pack’s arrival.
“As the Senate-confirmed CEO, he has the right to replace us with his own VOA leadership,” VOA director Amanda Bennett and deputy Sandy Sugawara wrote to staff on Monday.
The turmoil follows a major confrontation involving the blacklisting of the VOA by a public relations manager at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under pressure from the White House. The Trump administration accused the VOA of pushing Chinese “propaganda” about the coronavirus pandemic in a bizarre statement that claimed that “much of the U.S. media takes its lead from China.”
CDC media affairs manager Michawn Rich ordered staff in an email disclosed over the weekend to freeze out VOA reporters because of the White House criticism.
Bennett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, on Sunday responded with a statement calling the blacklisting of VOA reporters “shocking” and “troubling,” and compared the action to authoritarian nations without a free press — like China.
The CDC did not respond to HuffPost’s repeated requests for comment.
Gorka, who worked with Bannon at Breitbart before Trump’s election, left the Trump administration after an eight-month stint as a White House deputy assistant. His departure followed a furious backlash over his anti-Islam comments and reported ties to a far-right Hungarian political group with historical links to the Nazi party. Gorka was born in Britain to Hungarian parents and lived in Hungary from 1992 to 2008.
He surfaced earlier this month to call former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired Marine general, “no Marine” in an op-ed after Mattis attacked Trump for striving to divide the nation.
Trump retweeted a message containing Gorka’s comments and responded by calling Mattis our “most overrated general.”