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Washington, D.C. – Today, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul delivered remarks at a Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability hearing addressing management failures at the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). Chairman McCaul emphasized the need for reform at USAGM so the agency can continue to accurately report the news abroad and combat propaganda by authoritarian regimes.

— Remarks as delivered —

The U.S. Agency for Global Media is a critical pillar of America’s soft power. It is – and will continue to be – a beacon of freedom, supplying the truth to those living under tyranny and oppression.

USAGM funds critical entities, including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and Radio Free Asia, as well as the Middle East Broadcasting Network.

These are the radio stations and news outlets that fight propaganda pushed by state-controlled media under the iron fist of dictators and despots like Putin, the Ayatollah, and Chairman Xi.

They’ve shined a spotlight on the war crimes of Putin, [and] they’ve even broadcast this committee’s work – like our report on the origins of COVID in China. They played a critical role in translating that report into Mandarin and sending it all across mainland China.

But for all the good USAGM is capable of, there remain serious problems with how it’s being managed.

In early 2021, whistleblowers contacted Congress regarding the reinstatement of Ms. Setareh Sieg, then director of Voice of America’s Persian News Network. 

The whistleblowers reached out to congressional Democrats first.

But they were ignored.

And when they came to me, the Ranking Member of the committee at this time, I immediately opened an investigation into their claims of misconduct.

The whistleblowers alleged wide-ranging abuses, including that Ms. Sieg frequently berated staff, used taxpayer funds for personal travel, awarded government contracts to friends, falsified her education credentials, and engaged in a pattern of favoritism.

Additionally, this committee worked closely with the French Embassy, which informed the committee back in 2021 that Ms. Sieg did not attend the prestigious Sorbonne – as she had claimed – and she does not hold a Ph.D., or an equivalent. 
Also, this was established three years ago, the [but] USAGM still refuses to accept the facts. 
But the evidence was clear. The whistleblowers were right. 
And in light of this investigation, I have serious concerns about employee vetting at this agency – since this episode represents the continuation of a troubling pattern.
But I want to be clear, poor HR decision-making by senior officials does not overshadow the important work being done by their subordinates, nor does it cast doubt on the important mission of this agency.
Look no further than Radio Free Europe. Radio Liberty is a shining example of how these outlets should function. 

I would also like to commend Mr. Steve Capus – who is here today – on the work you have been doing, sir.

Journalists working for these outlets are incredibly brave. Some have served time in prison for simply telling the truth.

Many of them fled the oppression of their homeland to report on the tyranny of [their] governments. They can’t tell their family where they are or what they are doing, for fear of reprisal.

What the Sieg investigation has shown is that these journalists’ courage is undermined by internal dysfunction at the agency. 

The U.S. Agency for Global Media must serve as the voice of what Ronald Reagan called, the “Shining City on a Hill.”

But for that mission to be realized, USAGM leadership needs to reestablish its credibility with the Congress.

There is nothing more powerful than the truth. When people have the freedom to choose their own destiny, they will always choose freedom.  

The world is on fire, and now, more than ever, they need that beacon of truth from the “Shining City on the Hill.”