The voice behind two music shows heard on NPR affiliates was pushed out for violating the public radio network's code of ethics by appearing at the D.C. portion of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Lisa Simeone, who still has a profile on the "People at NPR" website, hosted the syndicated show World of Opera and documentary series Soundprint, but was spending her free time demonstrating in the nation's capital. Last night, a post appeared on the NPR blog entitled "Clarification Regarding Lisa Simeone," assuring all scandalized listeners, "We of course take this issue very seriously." Simeone says she was then fired, but not before being read the NPR rules.
"I don't cover news. In none of the shows that I do, do I cover the news," she said. "What is NPR afraid I'll do? Insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of 'Madame Butterfly?'"
An NPR spokesperson said that their rules apply to those who host culture shows, too. "We are not her employer, but she is a host for a show that we distribute," said NPR. "She has that public presence."
The overreaction appears to be part of a pattern for the network, following the Juan Williams/Fox News mess and the James O'Keefe fiasco, and subsequent forced resignations, earlier this year. As the Associated Press puts it, NPR is "sensitive to accusations that it carries a liberal bias."
But Simeone says that great concern over conflicts of interest is not always the case:
"This sudden concern with my political activities is also surprising in light of the fact that Mara Liaason 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?"
Update: Simeone has indeed lost her job with Soundprint Media Center Inc., which produces her Soundprint show that airs on 35 NPR affiliates nationally, but her other show appears to be safe for now. World of Opera is produced by North Carolina-based station WDAV and distributed by NPR. "Ms. Simeone's activities outside of this job are not in violation of any of WDAV's employee codes and have had no effect on her job performance," said a station spokesperson. The AP reports, "The NPR affiliate said it was working to find a solution for the show with NPR." NPR maintains that they did not make the decision to fire Simeone.
Freelancer heard on NPR stations fired for protest [AP]
NPR Gets Radio Host Fired for Occupying [War Is a Crime]