The U.S. Senate, 90-8, on Tuesday confirmed former Time magazine managing editor Richard Stengel as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, the country's top foreign propaganda slot.
President Barack Obama nominated Stengel in September for the post, following the exit of Tara Sonenshine, a former ABC News producer and State Department PR hand.
Stengel told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in November that his job at Time was "to help explain America to the world – and the world to America." He said America's "unalienable rights" aren't just to be cherished: "We must promote them. That's where public diplomacy comes in."
Stengel, in his senate testimony, outlined to challenge to counter "attacks and misstatements about America and American foreign policy," amplified by social media. "Even though it is easier than anytime in human history to find information to rebut lies, less of that seems to be happening," he said. "But we cannot resign ourselves to this; we need to fight it. That is public diplomacy in the 21st century."
Stengel, who held the top Time post from 2006-13, previously led the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and helped Nelson Mandela pen his autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom." He was also a speechwriter and top advisor to Bill Bradley's 2000 presidential bid.
The State Department's public diplomacy operation handles communications with international audiences, cultural programming, academic exchanges and other outreach beyond U.S. borders. Stengel's purview includes PA and strategic counterterrorism communications.