VOA ‘Whistleblower’ Misrepresented Academic Credentials

Biden rehired Voice of America program review director after Trump fired her for falsely claiming degree from Sorbonne

• October 28, 2021 4:00 pm


A senior government "whistleblower" who claimed she was unfairly purged by politically motivated Trump officials—and who was later rehired by the Biden administration—appears to have misrepresented her academic credentials while applying for the job, according to Republican investigators on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

HFAC investigators said they asked the French embassy's Higher Education Office to review whether Setareh Derakhshesh Sieg, Voice of America’s program review director, received a doctorate in political science from the Sorbonne, as she reportedly claimed when she was hired by VOA. The embassy told congressional investigators that Sieg "had not earned a doctorate of any kind," according to a letter House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (R., Texas) sent on Wednesday to the acting chief executive officer for the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Kelu Chao.

French officials also reportedly cited "numerous irregularities" in a document Sieg provided to investigators as evidence of her degree, including an "invalid honors designation" and "the fact that the university did not have a political science program" in the year she graduated. And although Sieg said she got a Ph.D. at "the Sorbonne in Paris," the document she provided said she attended Paris Diderot University.

Sieg, who served as the head of the Voice of America’s Persian language division, was part of a group of "VOA whistleblowers" who became a cause célèbre among Democrats last year, after the employees were fired or placed on administrative leave and came forward to accuse Trump officials of misusing the network for political propaganda.

HFAC's findings raise questions about the Biden administration’s decision to rehire Sieg after she was placed on administrative leave by the Trump administration for allegedly misusing public funds and falsely claiming she had a doctorate from Sorbonne University. While the Biden administration said it rehired Sieg after investigating and clearing her on the misconduct allegations, McCaul said the probe was "incomplete, rife with factual omissions and abbreviated explanations that do not hold water." He said it also called into question the validity of the Biden administration’s investigation, which reportedly cleared Sieg on allegations of misusing public funds.

"The relative ease by which our staff obtained this information calls into question the honesty, competency, and investigative integrity at the agency," said McCaul. "Based on the lack of transparency and communications with French officials, we have no choice but to wonder if the agency is stonewalling to cover up what has transpired, shielding relevant individuals from the consequences of their actions."

McCaul and other House Republicans are calling on administration officials to turn over additional records related to the investigation.

Published under: Biden Administration, Media