National Public Radio took intense heat for the well-publicized and extremely botched firing of commentator Juan Williams, and now the thermostat is rising again. However, this time, the fired commentator does not deal in politics on NPR, is not an employee of NPR, is on the left side of the political spectrum (whereas Williams was harder to pin down) and NPR says it didn’t do it.
The air personality is Lisa Simeone. The problem is her association with a group called October 2011, which is carrying on Occupy Wall Street type activities in Washington DC.
Simeone’s Soundprint program has nothing to do with politics. Her topic is opera. Soundprint is said to be the entity that ended its relationship with Simeone.
Another program she is associated with is WDAV World of Opera. WDAV-FM, owned by Davidson College, broadcasts in the Charlotte market and produces the show and found no conflict between Simeone’s program and her other activities, particularly since she is only a free-lancer at the station.
Blogger David Swanson reported Simeone’s own words on the matter. She told him, “I find it puzzling that NPR objects to my exercising my rights as an American citizen — the right to free speech, the right to peaceable assembly — on my own time in my own life. I’m not an NPR employee. I’m a freelancer. NPR doesn’t pay me. I’m also not a news reporter. I don’t cover politics. I’ve never brought a whiff of my political activities into the work I’ve done for NPR World of Opera. What is NPR afraid I’ll do — insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of Madame Butterfly?”
Despite Simeone’s comments, NPR says it had nothing to do with her firing, and learned of it the way most of the rest of us did, via the media. It said in a statement, “It has been reported that NPR had a role in the decision made by the management of the public radio program Soundprint to end its relationship with Lisa Simeone as the program’s host. This is not true. Soundprint is an independent public radio program that is not produced by NPR. NPR had no contact with the management of the program prior to their decision. We learned about it after the fact, through media reports.”
NPR added, “Other than Lisa’s role as host, Soundprint and WDAV’s World of Opera are completely unrelated. As we indicated last night, we are in conversation with WDAV about this matter. We fully respect that the management of WDAV is solely responsible for the decision making around Lisa’s participation in Occupy DC and her freelance role with WDAV’s program.”