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Jay Smooth quits WBAI in protest of Leonard Lopate hiring

WBAI Radio

The Underground Railroad is ending its tenure on WBAI-FM after the station hired Leonard Lopate, who was fired from WNYC following allegations of “inappropriate conduct.” Jay Smooth, who conceived of the iconic hip-hop show and has been hosting for more than 25 years, took to Twitter to break the news. “This is incredibly painful, despite all their efforts to make the decision easier,” he wrote. “But there is no other choice. I will no longer be broadcasting on @WBAI.”

Lopate was suspended and fired from WNYC alongside another host, Jonathan Schwartz, in December of 2017. Regarding the firings, WNYC said that separate, outside investigations “found that each individual had violated our standards for providing an inclusive, appropriate, and respectful work environment.” WNYC continued, “This investigation by reporters at WNYC News has not determined the specific reasons for the termination of Lopate and Schwartz. However, it has learned of multiple complaints against both hosts over the course of more than a dozen years. In several cases, they involved allegations of inappropriate comments and bullying.” Following “a previous substantiated investigation in February of this year of inappropriate remarks made by Lopate to staff,” he had been given a warning and one-on-one anti harassment training, according to a statement from New York Public Radio.

Lopate got his start on WBAI in 1977 before going to WNYC, and his new program, “Lopate at Large,” began airing Monday (7/16). As Columbia Journalism Review reports, it was met with protest and questions from some producers at WBAI, including Jay:

Jay Smooth told listeners on Friday night he was “vehemently opposed” to the decision during the most recent edition of his long-running hip-hop show, The Underground Railroad. “If this show is still airing as of Friday, I’m definitely not going back on Friday,” he tells CJR. “The question for me is, have we gone past the point that I want to go back at all?”

Smooth says producers did not receive any kind of email or other communication from management about Lopate’s hiring and his new show leading up to its airing on Monday. He read about it in an email that went out to listener-subscribers.

Jay tweeted about his contribution to the CJR article, saying “my radio home for almost 30 years, @WBAI, has decided to put Leonard Lopate back on the air, just months after he was fired from WNYC for years of misconduct with women there. And I am disgusted and ashamed.” He screencapped the response, now deleted, from WBAI:

Jay asked station owner Radio Pacifica if they were “okay with @WBAI representing our network this way? Is this what Pacifica stands for now?”

WBAI tweeted in reponse, “dear Jay. It’s so good to see you involved with WBAI. Management so rarely sees or hears from you. Perhaps you could use some of this extra time to get some BAI Buddies for your program.”

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