Amanda Bennett served as the 29th director of Voice of America from 2016 to 2020.

For almost 80 years, Voice of America has shown the best of America and our values to millions of people around the world. It has told people living on a diet of state propaganda things they wouldn’t otherwise know.

Without VOA, people in Iran would have heard only one side of the story when an American drone strike killed Qasem Soleimani. Without VOA, Chinese citizens would have been unaware of the full text of an address by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, only a censored version edited to remove all criticism of Beijing.

Now the Trump administration is doing its best to destroy this national treasure and the respect it has earned for itself and our country.

Earlier this year, Trump installed Michael Pack as chief executive of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees VOA and affiliate services such as Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia. Pack promised to make the agency more effective and raise morale.

He has done none of this.

Instead, he has sown destruction. He doled out harsh firings and suspensions for a single news segment that unfairly favored then-candidate Joe Biden and removed career civil servants who tried to moderate his actions. He silently allowed visas of foreign journalists VOA depends on for daily broadcasts in 47 languages to expire, sending them back to possible danger in the hostile countries VOA covers. His office is understood to be compiling “dossiers” — files that can be used to terminate civil servants and journalists alike, including VOA’s respected White House correspondent.

Worst, with just a few weeks remaining in the president’s term, Pack has appointed a new VOA director, Robert R. Reilly, who served briefly as director 20 years ago.

Expecting to be fired, I resigned as VOA director in June. Normally, I never would — and never have in previous positions — spoken out against my successor. A new administration has the right to a new director, even one with whom I might disagree.

But this is not normal. Reilly is a dangerous choice. His views are not conservative — they are extreme. As head of one of America’s most powerful voices to the world, he risks causing reputational damage that will be hard to repair.

In 2014, Reilly published “Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything,” a book describing homosexual acts as “habitual moral failure” and lamenting the “legitimization of homosexual behavior.” Reilly argued, “ ‘Coming out of the closet’ can mean only an assent at the level of moral principle to what would otherwise be considered morally disordered.”

Imagine how Reilly’s views will be greeted by governments in countries that ostracize or even murder gays.

In an earlier book, “The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis,” Reilly asserted that Islam abhors reason and has committed “intellectual suicide.” Reilly has every right to hold and even promulgate such views — just not at the head of America’s news organization.

Reilly has argued for years that VOA is not an ordinary news organization. “VOA’s job should be to advance the justice of the American cause while simultaneously undermining our opponents,” he wrote in a 2017 Wall Street Journal essay, comparing VOA’s role to that of the Pentagon. He decries VOA’s historic independence from political influence, instead stressing its connection with U.S. diplomacy.

But a news organization is exactly what VOA is, representing America’s free press by embodying it. VOA has long been required to practice “the highest standards of professional journalism” — words that are repeated over and over again in the laws, regulations and other official documents that have defined VOA over decades. Reilly wants VOA — or some version of it — instead to report to the president and to work cooperatively with the State Department. Yet it is VOA’s independence from political influence that sets it apart from state propaganda outlets such as Russia’s RT or China’s CCTV. Independence gives VOA credibility.

Without quick action, Reilly could be around for a very long time — indeed long after President-elect Joe Biden takes office and Pack himself is gone. A recent Supreme Court decision made it possible for Biden, upon assuming office, to immediately remove Pack despite his three-year term. Yet new legislation is doing exactly the opposite for Reilly. Under legislation just being finalized, a VOA director can only be named or removed by a Senate-confirmed bipartisan board — a board that doesn’t yet exist.

Pack’s last-minute appointment of Reilly could have a silver lining. There are dozens of people on both sides of the aisle who understand and celebrate VOA’s mission and independence and who have decried the destruction of the past few months. The need to quickly remove this dangerous choice should spur the next president to nominate, and Congress to confirm, a respected, ethical, bipartisan board as soon as possible.

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