WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate backed President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead government broadcasting on Thursday, confirming conservative filmmaker Michael Pack despite an investigation into whether he misused funds from a nonprofit organization he runs.
The Senate backed Pack 53-38, almost entirely along party lines. Senator Joe Manchin was the only Democrat to vote in favor of the nomination.
Trump nominated Pack two years ago to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which is in charge of government-funded news outlets, including Voice of America (VOA), which Trump has lashed out against over its coronavirus coverage.
Democrats say Trump sees Pack as someone who would force more favorable coverage of his administration by VOA and other government media outlets. Pack is a close ally of activists including Steve Bannon, once a top aide to Trump and former executive chairman of the right-wing website Breitbart News.
“It is absolutely critical that any person in this position maintain a strong firewall between the work of its networks and grantees and political interference,” Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a speech opposing the nomination.
Trump has criticized VOA as he has blamed China for worsening the coronavirus outbreak. His administration accused VOA of amplifying Chinese propaganda after a segment on a light show marking the reopening of the city of Wuhan.
Democrats had sought to delay the Senate’s consideration of Pack after the attorney general for the city of Washington launched an investigation into whether Pack misused funds from his nonprofit Public Media Lab at his for-profit film company.
But Republicans, who control a majority of seats in the Senate, pushed ahead.
Senator Jim Risch, the Republican foreign relations committee chairman, praised Pack on Thursday as “uniquely qualified” for the position.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Tom Brown