NPR Ousts Producer Over ‘Occupy DC’

For years now, U.S. “public broadcasting” has run scared from right-wing attacks and Republican funding cuts. So, NPR and PBS lard on more right-wing pundits, while purging any sign of liberal dissent as just happened with a producer of an opera show who joined “Occupy DC” protests, David Swanson reports.

By David Swanson

National Public Radio on Wednesday discovered that a woman named Lisa Simeone, who produced a show about opera called “World of Opera,” had been participating in a nonviolent occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., organized by October2011.org.

That same day, NPR persuaded a company for which Simeone worked to fire her, cutting her income in half and purging from the so-called public airwaves a voice that had never mentioned politics on NPR.

This frantic email was sent to all NPR staff:

From:NPR Communications
Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 6:12 PM
Subject: From Dana Rehm: Communications Alert

To:       All Staff
Fr:        Dana Davis Rehm
Re:      Communications Alert

We recently learned of World of Opera host Lisa Simeone’s participation in an Occupy DC group. World of Opera is produced by WDAV, a music and arts station based in Davidson, North Carolina. The program is distributed by NPR. Lisa is not an employee of WDAV or NPR; she is a freelancer with the station.

We’re in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously.

As a reminder, all public comment (including social media) on this matter is being managed by NPR Communications.

All media requests should be routed through NPR Communications at 202.513.2300 or mediarelations@npr.org. We will keep you updated as needed. Thanks. (NPR also addressed this issue in a blog post.)

About three and a half hours after the above email was sent, Simeone had been fired by a show called “Soundprint” as punishment for having been “unethical.” Here is her bio on that show’s website. And here she is on NPR‘s.

“Soundprint” is a show that does touch on politics and includes political viewpoint in Simeone’s ledes, but it is not an NPR program and not distributed by NPR.  It is, however, heard on public radio stations.

Despite the title “NPR World of Opera,” that show is produced by a small station called WDAV for which Simeone contracts. Simeone was not an NPR employee. WDAV has not expressed any concern over Simeone’s “ethics.”

Simeone told me: “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?

“This sudden concern with my political activities is also surprising in light of the fact that Mara Liasson reports on politics for NPR yet appears as a commentator on FoxTV, Scott Simon hosts an NPR news show yet writes political op-eds for national newspapers, Cokie Roberts reports on politics for NPR yet accepts large speaking fees from businesses. Does NPR also send out ‘Communications Alerts’ about their activities?”

Let’s be clear about Simeone’s political activities. We have three quarters of the country wanting billionaires taxed, two-thirds wanting wars ended, large majorities wanting funding moved from the military to green energy and education and jobs.

Simeone has been taking part in a nonviolent encampment designed to facilitate the petitioning of our government for a redress of grievances, a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. That’s all. She has been participating. Nothing more.

There is nothing more specific to the allegation, nothing in particular that she has allegedly done other than participate in a nonviolent mass mobilization on behalf of majority opinion.

It may be difficult for NPR bigwigs to understand why we don’t all just rent $400 per night hotel rooms instead of littering a public square with tents. But NPR’s highly paid political agitators on behalf of the 1 percent are part of the problem. They are what we are protesting. And that is presumably what makes our speech and assembly “unethical.”

Or perhaps the breach of ethics is to be found in behaving as a decent citizen while simultaneously possessing some connection to the most insidious corporate loudspeaker in the country, one labeled “public” but belonging to the 1 percent.

Typical of the comments from NPR listeners in response to NPR’s blog post was one from a Mark Maguire who wrote: “If NPR is exerting pressure on the contracting company to get rid of Lisa, this is terrible. NPR will be sacrificing its integrity.

“You are reminded that non-violent civil disobedience was necessary for blacks in the USA, citizens in the Philippines under Marcos, and for India under the British.”

The most important point to stress here, I think, is that all requests should be routed through NPR Communications at 202-513-2300 or mediarelations@npr.org

David Swanson is the author of “War Is A Lie.” (This article first appeared at warisacrime.org .)

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9 comments on “NPR Ousts Producer Over ‘Occupy DC’

  1. Wallace McMillan on said:

    This is just outrageous! NPR is just another example of what is wrong with the mainstream media. NPR should not receive one dime of taxpayers’ money if they are unwilling to stand up for our Constitutional rights.

  2. I’ll never, even accidentally, turn your station on again.

  3. Bob Loblaw on said:

    National Propaganda Radio

    NPR was once the lone beacon of actual fourth estate journalism, watchdogs and whistleblowers were once revered, and reviled.

    Today, journalism is a quaint idea from a bygone era. Today, profits are king, even for a quasi-public entity like NPR.

    I quit listening religiously when they began parroting memes of the FAUX NEWS origin.

  4. chmoore on said:

    As far as I can tell, the IRS so far hasn’t shown any interest in questioning the tax-exempt status of NPR due to any activity by Lisa Simeone, which the IRS probably would do if they thought it meant something.

    So NPR’s “code of ehtics” excuse looks more like a CYA defense against on-going efforts by the political right to defund them.

    Meanwhile, it appears IRS is perfectly OK with approving non-profit tax status for videographer James O’Keefe, so he can solicit contributions from right-wing deep pocket donors promoting the bashing of for example, Planned Parenthood, ACORN, and guess who?…NPR.

  5. Paula Friedman on said:

    Should now be changed to National PRIVATE Radio. Won’t listen anymore. PBS is also beginning to turn me off. On the bright side…they’re beginning to run scared. GOOD.

  6. Lana Touchstone on said:

    It is time to switch your dollars and support from NPR to Pacifica.

  7. jbennett on said:

    Now i realize what others have been saying about NPR. You have reached too far and has totally lost my support. I will pass this on.

  8. weisseharre on said:

    (more)symphonic/(less)dramatic non-vocaholic creaky-tabled croaking
    “On Music and the Word” ~Nietzsche~ ‘how tragedy from music’s spirit’s born’

  9. Those were the days…i remember them well….i regret that i don’t have an archive of NPR’s Vietnam coverage, the Nixon downfall…etc…this is an American tragedy because, we, the Public supported the NPR & PBS. We also saw it’s transformation from Public to Private. Another shameful travesty on our Bill of Rights because these independents
    overreached in their expansions that required them to expand into corporate territory. What if these two public entities remained pure and truthful to their original intents ? What if we could go there to hear and see “old TV & Radio” today.