WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Tuesday addressed the United States Agency for Global Media’s (USAGM) ‘Media for Democracy Forum.’ There, Sen. Cruz highlighted the roles of an American free press in defending truth and promoting freedom.
“Our principles can tear down walls, can topple tyrannies, can promote freedom,” Sen. Cruz said. “America should consistently be a voice for freedom. We should be a voice for human rights. We should be a voice for democracy. Because that truth is powerful and it can transform the world. That’s also where an American free press and the USAGM come in play. Now to be clear, we don’t ask journalists to promote the viewpoint of the United States government. There are plenty of countries in the world where governments run their media, and the media is little more than a propaganda outlet for whatever the policy views are of the particular regime in power. Instead, we believe in a different kind of press, one that aligns with American principles. It’s a testament to our system of government that we encourage and protect dissent. That we encourage and protect a free media because freedom depends upon a free media.”
Sen. Cruz’s full remarks may be viewed here and below:
“Thank you very much, good afternoon. It is a privilege to be with you. Thank you for having me and let me say ‘thank you’ for the important, vital work you do defending truth and defending freedom.
“Your mission at the Agency for Global Media is to ‘inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.’
“And ours is an age where we have seen digital platforms that allow for rapid and far-reaching dissemination of information. Our adversaries have weaponized those platforms to spread disinformation at the expense of our allies’ societies and our national security.
“And it has never been more important for the United States to support our own platforms and to ensure that they are professional, cutting-edge, and committed to the principles of a free press.
“Now let me talk about the voice of America. America’s voice in the world – truth is powerful. Often people think that might is the only thing that matters. That military force is the only thing that matters. That guns, tanks, and missiles are the only things that matter. But truth has the power to transform the world.
“If you come by my Senate office, you may notice that there are three busts in my Senate office: a bust of Winston Churchill, a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a bust of Ronald Reagan. And the reason for that is I think all three understood the power of speaking truth, the power of words. Yes, Churchill commanded an army, but Churchill’s impact was words that roused the world to defend freedom.
“Dr. King – just a few weeks ago I had the privilege of joining several other Senator’s in reading on the Senate floor Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham jail. Now most or all of us have read that before, but I will tell you it is a different thing to read it aloud, to hear it aloud. You think about it, Dr. King never commanded an army. He simply commanded the words of truth. He simply spoke out against injustice and that transformed the world.
“And Ronald Reagan, you know, some years ago, I was in Jerusalem. Was visiting with Natan Sharansky, a famed Soviet dissident. And Sharansky told me about how even in the depths of the Russian Gulag, the prisoners would pass from cell to cell notes: ‘Did you hear what President Reagan said? Evil empire! Ash heap of history! Tear down this wall!’
“In my office, the dominant feature is a gigantic painting, actually larger than this poster board of Reagan standing before the Brandenburg Gate saying the words, ‘Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall!’
“Many don’t know the backstory behind those words. I believe those are the most important words uttered by any leader in modern times.
“The backstory is that three times, the State Department edited those words out of the speech. And three times Reagan, with his own hand, wrote them back. And they proceeded to have arguments where the State Department said, ‘Mr. President, you can’t say this. Mr. President, this is too belligerent. Mr. President this is unrealistic. We all know the Berlin Wall will stand for all eternity. So you cannot say something like this.’
“And each time, Reagan wrote it back he said with a smile, ‘You don’t understand. This is the whole point of the speech.’ And just a few years after those words were uttered, the Berlin Wall was torn to the ground.
“That’s important to reflect on. The United States didn’t bomb the Berlin Wall. We didn’t send in tanks to demolish it. It was simply the words, the power of speaking the truth. And tyrannies fear truth.
“That’s something America should remember, that our principles can tear down walls, can topple tyrannies, can promote freedom. Our options in foreign policy are not simply send in the Marines for every challenge in the world, but rather America should consistently be a voice for freedom. We should be a voice for human rights. We should be a voice for democracy. Because that truth is powerful and it can transform the world.
“That’s also where an American free press and the USAGM come in play.
“Now to be clear, we don’t ask journalists to promote the viewpoint of the United States government. There are plenty of countries in the world where governments run their media, and the media is little more than a propaganda outlet for whatever the policy views are of the particular regime in power.
“Instead, we believe in a different kind of press, one that aligns with American principles. It’s a testament to our system of government that we encourage and protect dissent. That we encourage and protect a free media because freedom depends upon a free media.
“It’s also important that we have focused – we’ve been open and candid in discussing the need for reform. I’m heartened that evidence of reform – the evidence is its working. For instance, what Alberto Fernandez has done at the Middle East Broadcast Networks is as impressive as it was necessary. Al Hurra was transformed and relaunched not on the basis of past practices and old assumptions, but against the backdrop of contemporary media analytics, tools, priorities, and above all else – media realities. The station is now, for the first time in a long time, set to compete at the highest levels to distribute information in the Middle East.
“I know that USAMG’s leadership is committed to replicating that sort of success across Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio y Television Marti, and Radio Free Asia. Over and over again I hear about your efforts to incorporate hard-nosed data analytics, including the promise of new technologies such as AI for the newsroom. The need for reform will of course continue, but USAGM is headed in the right direction.
“And all of these efforts are aimed at ensuring that USAGM media outlets provide the best, the timeliest, the most accurate information possible. Again, we don’t want journalists to promote the U.S. government’s viewpoints. We don’t need them to.
“Your role is to inform, and that is a powerful role. As we discussed, tyrannies fear the truth. They shudder from sunlight. So relay facts. And I’ll tell ya, few things are more powerful than highlighting dissidents. That’s a role I’ve taken seriously in the Senate. The last seven years over and over again I’ve gone to the Senate floor to highlight dissidents standing up to tyranny, standing up to oppression, because simply shining a light and telling their stories causes tyrants to fear the repercussions.
“Your role in engaging foreign audiences is a second and a powerful testament to America’s principles. Rather than asking you to push pre-packaged American talking points, your independence – which audiences can see and sense for themselves – is our talking point. Not a free press that pushes American values, but a free press that is the embodiment of American values.
“And finally, your mission to connect people. Many of your outlets are broadcasting to places of alienation and isolation. In too many of those places people have lost hope. And the work you do is invaluable in bringing news of a different world. Speaking to power, speaking to oppression, speaking for freedom, speaking for human rights is powerful. It is transformational. And it is at the very core of your mission. So for that I simply say, ‘thank you.’”