Yesterday, NPR’s PR flack was haranguing me on the phone about how NPR had nothing to do with getting Lisa Simeone fired from an independent program called Soundprint. This was despite NPR having gone public with its concerns over Simeone’s “unethical” participation in democracy, and Soundprint’s referencing of NPR’s “ethics” rules in firing Simeone. It was also despite NPR’s clear intention to get Simeone removed from our airwaves.
I have no evidence that NPR contacted Soundprint, but “World of Opera” is a different story. Today I read that NPR has dropped distribution of “World of Opera,” a program produced by WDAV which contracts with Simeone to host it. NPR’s original frantic email and blog post had read:
“We’re in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously.” (The issue of participating in a democratic society and not backing a corporate agenda like bigshot NPR hosts who opinionate on Fox, in op-eds, and at big business speaking events for big bucks.)
Lisa was told to be on a phone call with NPR and WDAV Thursday morning, but NPR canceled the call without telling her, as she waited by the phone. NPR’s Anna Christopher Bross tells me that NPR spoke with WDAV about how to handle Simeone. She says they went through many possible scenarios, and that NPR has been completely transparent. I asked her what any of the scenarios were, and she refused to say. I asked if one of them was the only one anyone has discussed, namely firing Simeone, and she wouldn’t say. But the announcement by WDAV was “Ms. Simeone remains the host of World of Opera.” The decision was not to fire her. NPR announced “Classical public radio station WDAV says Lisa Simeone will continue to host World of Opera.” The decision was not to discontinue her.
Now, unable to get Simeone fired, a decision which NPR would have carefully blamed entirely on WDAV, our public radio thugs have taken the only approach left to them if people who condescend to supporting the political efforts of the poor are to be kept out of public sight: NPR has dropped the program.
Clearly Soundprint deserves its full share of condemnation in all of this, and WDAV merits strong support. WDAV will be distributing “World of Opera” on its own and should have our backing. But NPR has lowered itself to the bottom rung of our communications system. Mara Liaason can opinionate on Fox News while providing an objective god’s-eye view on NPR. Scott Simon can publish opinion columns in corporate newspapers while reporting the facts. Cokie Roberts can take corporate speaking fees that could cover most people’s mortgages without being perceived as in any way tarnished. But Lisa Simeone cannot introduce operas while having taken the unforgivable step of supporting a nonviolent movement on behalf of the lower 99% of us. Despicable.