Two of the other reporters on administrative leave, who did not wish to be identified, concurred with Gong’s account.
Voice of America, however, disputes Gong’s version.
“At no time was there any management consideration of not doing the interview, nor of cutting short an ongoing interview for any reason,” the broadcaster said in a statement to CNBC. Voice of America confirmed that it put Gong and four other department employees on administrative leave.
Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett denied that Beijing influenced VOA’s decision.
“It was not caused by the Chinese involvement. It was caused by our own recognition at a news meeting that an unusual interview had been scheduled,” she told CNBC, arguing that Guo was making allegations that could not be verified. “It wasn’t miscommunication, and the instructions were clear.”
The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America, appointed James McGregor, chairman of
Gong characterized McGregor’s role as “crisis management PR.” Bennett said McGregor is “probably as neutral and respected and ethical as anybody in the field.”
McGregor did not respond to a CNBC request for comment.
A law firm and the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ internal security department are conducting two separate investigations, Bennett said.