U.S. Senate panel backs divisive Trump broadcasting nominee Pack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Republican-led U.S. Senate committee approved President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead government broadcasting entities on Thursday, backing conservative filmmaker Michael Pack despite an investigation of whether he misused funds from a nonprofit organization he runs.

At an unusually acrimonious meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, senators voted 12-10 along party lines to support Pack’s nomination, sending it for a full Senate vote, which has not yet been scheduled.

Every committee Republican voted in favor of Pack and every Democrat voted against.

Trump nominated Pack almost 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, Trump’s former aide and co-founder of the far-right website Breitbart news.

Trump has criticized VOA as he has blamed China for worsening the coronavirus outbreak. Last month, for example, his administration accused VOA of amplifying Chinese propaganda after a segment on a light show marking the reopening of the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak originated from.

Democrats had sought to delay the vote on 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.

At the acrimonious business meeting on Thursday, which the senators partly closed to media access as they discussed Pack, there were at least six votes to delay considering him.

The motions were defeated every time, along party lines, before the final vote approving the nominee.

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