WASHINGTON — A former White House aide falsely accused of penning anonymous criticism of President Donald Trump has been named to head the U.S. government’s Arabic-language broadcasting outlets.
Victoria Coates was appointed on Tuesday by Trump’s handpicked head of U.S.-funded international broadcasting to run the Middle East Broadcasting Networks. She had been suspected in some circles of being the inside administration critic who authored the book “Anonymous" but had strenuously denied it and vindicated when a former Department of Homeland Security official admitted authorship.
Her appointment, coupled with that of a one-time aide for former Vice-President Dick Cheney to run Radio Free Asia, completes U.S. Agency for Global Media chief Michael Pack’s makeover of Voice of America and its sister networks with conservative leaders.
Coates will run the Mideast outlets while ex-Cheney aide Stephen Yates will oversee Radio Free Asia, according to announcements from the agency. Earlier this month, Pack named new heads for the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. Democrats and some Republicans have accused Pack of trying to turn the agency into a pro-Trump propaganda outlets.
Faced with the false “Anonymous” allegations, Coates, a former foreign policy staffer for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, was forced out of the White House and began working for the Department of Energy. Yates was a deputy national security adviser to Cheney, and served as the chairman of the Idaho Republican Party from 2014 to 2017.(
Earlier this month, Pack named new heads for the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. Democrats and some Republicans have accused Pack of trying to turn the agency into a pro-Trump propaganda outlet and have enacted new rules regarding USAGM appointments and policy decisions.
Those new rules are included in the Omnibus budget bill that Congress passed late Monday and Trump is expected to sign and extend a congressional review period over actions taken by USAGM leadership, including an attempt to de-fund one of the federal government’s top democracy promotion initiatives.
Pack, a conservative filmmaker, Trump ally and onetime associate of former Trump political adviser Steve Bannon, has made no secret of his intent to shake up the agency since he became CEO of USAGM after a long confirmation battle in the Senate that finally ended after Trump and his allies launched a series of attacks on VOA and demanded new leadership.
President-elect Joe Biden and his team have pledged a full review of Pack’s actions and could replace him shortly after inauguration, but it’s not entirely clear how many of his personnel decisions could be immediately reversed.
Despite those potential reversals, Pack has forged ahead with changes and, in addition to those announced on Tuesday, has since the beginning of December appointed a long-time critic of U.S.-government broadcasting to lead the Voice of America and conservative advocates to lead Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which runs Radio and TV Marti.
In addition to those appointments, Pack has also informed the Open Technology Fund that he has begun procedures to strip it of its federal funding for at least three years. The OTF provides technology to assist democracy advocates in repressive countries around the world.
Shortly after assuming his position in June, Pack dismissed the OTF board, whose members sued and won a court order against their dismissals. The move to “debar” it appears to be a way around the court decision and would effectively shut the OTF down. Should it proceed, the debarment would take effect on Jan. 19, just a day before Biden is sworn in.
VOA was founded during World War II and its congressional charter requires it to present independent news and information to international audiences.
Matthew Lee, The Associated Press