Freelance broadcaster Lisa Simeone was fired from public radio program Soundprint yesterday after NPR took issue with her role as a spokesperson for the Occupy DC protests, despite the fact that she is not officially employed by the organization.
Simeone’s conflict with NPR was first reported by Roll Call and eventually ended up on Fox News before she was officially fired, evoking another infamous NPR termination. “The whole thing, right down to the firing-by-phone-after-pickup-from-Fox, has echoes of the Juan Williams debacle,” wrote Politico's Keach Hagey, “and is likely to worsen public radio's political woes, even if Simeone was not an NPR employee.”
Soundprint isn’t actually produced by NPR and airs on affiliate WAMU in Washington, D.C., but WAMU news director Jim Asendio said that the station shares NPR’s code of ethics, which states that “NPR journalists may not engage in public relations work, paid or unpaid,” excepting “certain volunteer nonprofit, nonpartisan activities, such as participating in the work of a church, synagogue, or other institution of worship, or a charitable organization.”
Since 2002, Simeone has also hosted World of Opera, a show produced by North Carolina’s WDAV and distributed by NPR. It now looks like Simeone’s role at that show could be in danger as well. In a statement, NPR said that it is in “conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this.”
In an email to the Baltimore Sun, Simeone defended her involvement with Occupy DC. “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,” she wrote. “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's World of Opera. What is NPR afraid I’ll do—insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of Madame Butterfly?”