Lea Gabrielle, a former Fox News reporter for Shepard Smith Reporting, will take the helm of the State Department agency responsible for U.S. efforts to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation, CNN reports. The position, described as a special envoy and coordinator for the Global Engagement Center, is a critical role as the United States continues to face foreign meddling in national politics and the spread of disinformation both at home and from outside actors.
Gabrielle’s selection was not out of the blue, as she was publicly considered late last year. Her experience outside of her time at Fox News includes being a U.S. Navy fighter pilot and participating in intelligence operations. She is not the first Trump Administration hire from Fox News, the preferred news network of the president. Also hailing from that network are State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert and White House Communications Chief Bill Shine.
A State Department spokesperson applauded Gabrielle’s credentials, calling out in particular her experience as a CIA-trained human intelligence operations officer, foreign liaison officer, and U.S. Navy program director.
Despite Gabrielle’s military and intelligence background, critics have been quick to point out that she does not seem to have the experience expected from someone in a critical role within the Global Engagement Center.
“Lea may be a great reporter and pilot. She has evidenced absolutely no knowledge of or experience with information warfare. Our nation, indeed the world, faces a serious and sophisticated threat. We need leadership that can take on this danger from day one,” said Brett Bruen, who served in a similar role under President Barack Obama prior to establishment of the GEC in 2016.
An administration official indicated that although Gabrielle’s policy background is unclear, she will be a strong and effective spokesperson for the department, an idea with the unstated implication that perhaps the Trump Administration sees the role as more heavily skewed in favor of public affairs than tangible policy.
Pleased to introduce Lea Gabrielle as the Special Envoy & Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center. As a former Intel Operations Officer, F-18 fighter pilot & TV correspondent, Lea will lead USG efforts against disinformation & those who would undermine our national security. pic.twitter.com/V0KNZ7a1GM— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) February 7, 2019
The GEC operates with a stated mission of countering state-sponsored disinformation and propaganda. The agency has become increasingly critical in the face of ongoing concerns about foreign interference in U.S. elections, including those currently under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is charged with exploring claims of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as well as any potential coordination between Russian actors and the Trump campaign.
The agency has come under some fire early in its short tenure, with critics saying that the agency failed to use the funding allocated to it and for being slow to pursue any action on the issue of potential Russian meddling.