The Per­sian News nightmare

Amer­ica’s ‘voice’ has been trans­formed into the Voice of Tehran

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Ken­neth R. Tim­mer­man Ken­neth R. Tim­mer­man is the au­thor of “De­cep­tion: The Mak­ing of the YouTube Video Hil­lary and Obama Blamed for Beng­hazi” (Post Hill Press, 2016).

If you had been listening to the Voice of Amer­ica’s Per­sian News Net­work (PNN) in the weeks and months be­fore the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, you would eas­ily have be­lieved that Don­ald Trump was a white su­prem­a­cist in league with the Ku Klux Klan who raped un­der­age girls, and that Hil­lary Clin­ton was a shoe-in to be­come pres­i­dent.

Sure, you would have had the same im­pres­sion watch­ing MSNBC or CNN (since merged into the DNC). But there’s a big dif­fer­ence: your tax dol­lars paid for the pro­pa­ganda on the Voice of Amer­ica.

So cer­tain was the di­rec­tor of the VOA’s Per­sian Ser­vice, Setareh Der­akhshesh, that Hil­lary Clin­ton was about to be­come pres­i­dent that she tasked re­porters two weeks ahead of time to pre­pare a spe­cial pro­gram li­on­iz­ing the Demo­cratic “pres­i­dent-elect.” No such pro­gram was pre­pared on Don­ald Trump.

When Mrs. Clin­ton’s cam­paign chair, John Podesta, told sup­port­ers at 2 a.m. in Chicago to “go home,” PNN re­porters obe­di­ently went home as well and the Per­sian ser­vice went off air, in­stead of broad­cast­ing the real pres­i­dent-elect’s ac­cep­tance speech.

The next day they brought on Me­hdi Nour­bakhsh, the son-in-law of for­mer Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran for­eign min­is­ter Ibrahim Yazdi, to an­a­lyze the results. “Trump will leave the pres­i­dency to Mike Pence and will go back to what he had been do­ing be­fore,” he said. “Trump will hand Syria to­tally to Rus­sia… Trump is not rep­re­sent­ing all Amer­ica. He is rep­re­sent­ing ul­tra right, white color, low ed­u­cated, re­li­gious fa­nat­ics who can­not see a woman in lead­er­ship.” No one chal­lenged these as­ser­tions.

Other ar­ti­cles and in­ter­views on VOA’s Per­sian ser­vice are all of a piece. In an edi­to­rial posted the day be­fore the elec­tion, VOA ed­i­tors wrote that Vladimir Putin was the only world leader who would wel­come the ar­rival of Don­ald Trump, but that was be­cause “Don­ald Trump serves Rus­sian in­ter­ests and is associated with Rus­sian in­vestors.”

In a post-elec­tion piece, VOA in­vited an­other Trump-hater, Reza Go­harzad, to give his views of the pres­i­dent-elect’s Cab­i­net picks. He told VOA’s au­di­ence in Iran that strate­gic ad­vi­sor Steve Ban­non and U.S. at­tor­ney gen­eral des­ig­nate Sen. Jeff Ses­sions were “racists who have to apol­o­gize to the Amer­i­can peo­ple.” Ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary des­ig­nate Betsy DeVos was “go­ing to end pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion.”

VOA ed­i­tors con­tin­ued their war on Mr. Trump on Twit­ter and Face­book. Af­ter Fidel Cas­tro died, PNN ed­i­tor Mo­ham­mad Man­zar­pour shared a tweet prais­ing Cas­tro as a real gi­ant and call­ing Mr. Trump “a pa­per gi­ant.” (When crit­ics of PNN ex­posed this, Mr. Man­zar­pour deleted the shared tweet).

Fac­ing tough con­gres­sional crit­i­cism, the Broad­cast­ing Board of Gov­er­nors put out a state­ment in English laud­ing VOA’s cov­er­age of the elec­tions.

“VOA Per­sian aired two days of spe­cial elec­tion pro­gram­ming which in­cluded over seven hours of live elec­tions results,” the BBG stated. “The ser­vice’s elec­tion night broad­casts in­cluded the live speeches of both Trump and Clin­ton with si­mul­ta­ne­ous trans­la­tion. Also, their po­lit­i­cal talk show New Hori­zons fea­tured a dis­cus­sion with the Trump’s Mid­dle East ad­vi­sor Ma­jid Rafiezadeh.”

That state­ment in­cludes sev­eral out­right lies. On elec­tion night, VOA did not broad­cast speeches by ei­ther pres­i­den­tial can­di­date: Mrs. Clin­ton did not speak, and PNN went off air be­fore Mr. Trump took to the podium.

As for Ma­jid Rafiezadeh, he was no Trump ad­vi­sor. “The Trump Cam­paign au­tho­rized me to or­ga­nize a Mid­dle East­ern Amer­i­can Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee but I don’t know Mr. Ma­jid Rafizadeh and he was not on that list,” Trump Mid­dle East ad­vi­sor Hos­sein Karam told me in an email. “I checked with the other Ira­nian Amer­i­can on the Mid­dle East­ern Amer­i­can Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee and they had not heard of this in­di­vid­ual ei­ther,” he added.

In fact, Mr. Rafiezadeh has been an “am­bas­sador” for the pro-Tehran ad­vo­cacy group, Na­tional Ira­nian Amer­i­can Coun­cil, NIAC, which vi­ciously de­nounced Don­ald Trump for months and, af­ter the elec­tions, raised money from sup­port­ers on a pledge to wage “a ma­jor pub­lic bat­tle” against the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Voice of Amer­ica is ter­mi­nally ill. House For­eign Af­fairs com­mit­tee chair­man Rep. Ed Royce, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, has de­voted an en­tire page on the com­mit­tee’s web­site to long-stand­ing un­suc­cess­ful ef­forts to re­form the VOA. For­mer and cur­rent em­ploy­ees have set up a blog to chron­i­cle the dis­as­ter.

The Per­sian Ser­vice has been rank with in­fight­ing and per­son­nel dis­putes for decades. A 2015 Fed­eral Em­ployee View­point Sur­vey Re­port found wide­spread dis­con­tent, with only 30.2 per­cent of PNN em­ploy­ees be­liev­ing that PNN’s se­nior lead­ers “main­tain high stan­dards of hon­esty and in­tegrity.”

In re­cent years, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has brought in more than a dozen re­porters from Ira­nian regime me­dia out­lets who have trans­formed Amer­ica’s “voice” into the Voice of Tehran. Some of these in­di­vid­u­als last worked for the Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps.

It may be pos­si­ble to save VOA through the to­tal over­haul of our in­ter­na­tional broad­cast­ing be­ing pro­posed by the House and Se­nate for­eign af­fairs com­mit­tees.

But there is no sav­ing PNN. It is too cor­rupt, too rid­dled with regime sup­port­ers, and too toxic to the “good” em­ploy­ees to be reformed. It’s time to shut it down and save the tax­pay­ers some money and our na­tion from pub­lic em­bar­rass­ment.

ILLUSTRATION BY HUNTER

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