Michael Pack, President Donald Trump's pick to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media, has appointed to the organization's board a person with ties to an anti-LGBT group and another who publicly bashed President Barack Obama's transgender policy.
The board of directors for these media organizations that are overseen by the USAGM have a say on who is selected to become leaders of the companies they represent. Their ties and previous remarks could give a preview into the way Michael Pack, the CEO of the agency, is remaking the federally funded news organization to fit a more conservative tone.
Democrats, including Sen. Robert Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, have voiced concern that these moves represent an attempt by Pack to destroy the USAGM. These new board members were brought up in a letter from Reps. Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey, chairs of the House Appropriations Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee, sent to Pack on Friday. The two lawmakers called on him to provide documents for why he chose to terminate and then replace various career officials at the agency.
The board moves come after Pack purged longtime board members and executives just weeks after officially becoming USAGM's new CEO. Trump himself has publicly taken aim at Voice of America, one of the news organizations overseen by the agency.
In statement released on Thursday, Pack appeared to defend his decision to remove longtime agency officials. The USAGM did not return a request for comment for this story.
Bethany Kozma, according to people familiar with the matter who declined to be named as these decisions have yet to be made public, is set to join the board of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and is currently working with the United States Agency for International Development. She formerly worked in President George W. Bush's administration and has been an activist against pro-transgender policies.
Jonathan Alexandre, these people added, is expected to be a corporate board member for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and reportedly is on the board of Radio Free Asia. He is the senior counsel for government affairs at Liberty Counsel, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit advocacy group that fights for pro-Christian legal rights, Alexandre's LinkedIn profile says. Both Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia are entities of USAGM and they did not return requests for comment.
Liberty Counsel has often publicly taken a stance against pro-gay or transgender policies. There is no public record of Alexandre himself making similar comments.
Alexandre is also senior counsel for government affairs at Liberty Counsel Action, an associated 501(c)(4), that, according to their website, "advances religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, the family, responsible government, national security, and support for Israel at the federal, state, and local levels."
Liberty Counsel and its founder, Mathew Staver, have a history of anti-LGTBQ remarks. Just recently, after the Supreme Court declared that workers can't be fired from their jobs for being gay or transgender, Liberty Counsel published an article on their website blasting the decision.
Titled "A Supreme Disappointment," the article says the following:
"Though this case was about employment, from here it is just a short step to public accommodations like restrooms, changing rooms, college dormitories, locker rooms and showers. We anticipate there will be much litigation defending the right of people not to have to expose themselves or their children to men 'identifying' as women, or vice versa, in the most personal and private of settings."
Staver, on the other hand, has been equally critical of gay and transgender lifestyles. In a 2013 radio, Stever claimed that "if you ultimately promoted same-sex marriage and everyone started to go towards same-sex marriage, what would happen to society? It would just simply cease to exist. Moreover, you'd have rampant increase in diseases," he said at the time.
Two years later, when the Boy Scouts decided to lift its ban on scout leaders being gay, Staver said in another radio interview that it would lead to "all kinds of sexual molestation. This is a playground for pedophiles to go and have all these boys as objects of their lust."
The nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled Liberty Counsel as a hate group. A Liberty Counsel spokeswoman did not return a request for comment before publication.