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WMNF board president defends Rob Lorei’s firing

Bill DeYoung

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Rob Lorei. WMNF photo.

The board president of WMNF said today in an email to the community radio station’s subscribers that the termination of station founder and longtime news director Rob Lorei was the result of “an ethnic slur towards a listener from a station email account.”

Will Greaves said in the email that Lorei “confirmed the use of the slur and has since defended it. As soon as the Board discovered the email, it directed General Manager Rick Fernandes to terminate Mr. Lorei for gross misconduct.”

Lorei’s contract with the station was terminated April 10. He had been with WMNF since its inception in 1978.

 In a lengthy interview with the Catalyst July 13, Lorei explained the issue from his perspective.

“In January of this year, I got an email into the air studio from a listener,” he said. “This is around Jan. 6. Who said ‘The Proud Boys don’t really present much of a threat to American democracy,’ and the person wrote something to the effect that there were only six Proud Boys, or a few Proud Boys, in Washington, D.C., and that they weren’t going to harm our democracy.


RELATED: Ousted WMNF co-founder Rob Lorei breaks his silence


“And I wrote him back and said, essentially, our democracy’s in peril, and I take this very seriously. I had done a bunch of programs about the danger of the rise of right-wing groups in the U.S. Just the week before I’d aired a documentary about the rise of fascism in Europe. I made the connection between the kinds of big lies that are being told in the U.S. today with the kind of big lies that were told in Germany in the 1940s, and ‘30s. I said ‘This is a very dangerous time, and we’ve got to take it seriously.”

After a back-and-forth email exchange, Lorei said, “Finally I got kind of exasperated and I said, essentially, ‘Well, you’re siding with the fascists.’ I said it in slightly stronger words, but that’s what I said to him.”

After “much deliberation,” Greaves said in today’s statement, “the Nathan B. Stubblefield Foundation Board of Directors is disappointed to have recently learned that Rob Lorei has promoted false and misleading statements regarding his termination from WMNF. The Board sends this email today to clarify the record.”

Reached Thursday afternoon, Lorei gave the Catalyst this statement: “People who know me and my long record at WMNF know I would never use an ethnic slur. I did use a political term in an email to a listener who wrote in to downplay the dangers of the Proud Boys on or about Jan. 6.

“The General Manager of WMNF knew about the email exchange at the time and laughed about it. He simply said to me ‘Don’t email this person again.’ I didn’t. Three months later I was fired.”

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Peter Golenbock

    July 22, 2021at3:13 pm

    Firing Rob Lorei for a made-up excuse is despicable. I will listen
    to Democracy Now at 9 in the morning and nothing else. And I will
    never send WMNF another dime.

  2. Avatar

    Karen J Douglas

    July 22, 2021at3:24 pm

    This disheartens me. Talk about tempest in a teapot…..Mr Lorei, I’m sorry for you persecution.

  3. Avatar

    D.A. Fischbach

    July 22, 2021at4:05 pm

    I have to assume that the Board of Directors of WMNF is somewhat worried about the comments posted on this site after Rob’s interview earlier this month. While there were only 15 comments, and they were mostly in Rob’s favor, I’m not on Face Book and don’t have an opportunity to see what the community, writ large, has said about this ridiculous firing. I still believe Rob. I find it impossible that he would ever use an “ethnic slur” to defend his position against anyone, including members of the Proud Boys. If he called someone a “fascist,” so what? I suppose we now need complete transparency. What, exactly, was the ethnic slur? The Board of WMNF needs to “fess up” to the truth and stop sending out mixed messages.

    If Rob is “guilty as charged” then make it known and we can put this issue to rest. Rob will then go into the dust bin of local radio hosts. If the Board is afraid of a defamation lawsuit, then this “he said, he said” controversy” will continue. Rob has been dignified about his firing. The Board of WMNF needs to follow his lead and take the high road. The Board of WMNF also needs to prove that they have competent hosts of public affairs programming. I’ve yet to see such thus far since Rob’s departure.

  4. Avatar

    Catherine

    July 22, 2021at4:36 pm

    I don’t believe Rob Lorei would use an ethnic slur in his communications with the public and I don’t believe WMNF’s story. He is sorely missed, especially his Radioactivity Program on WMNF. He organized and moderated many informative and enlightening episodes throughout the years and I have learned so much from listening.

  5. Avatar

    Georgia Earp

    July 22, 2021at6:39 pm

    I watch Rob Lorei on Florida This Week, and find him well informed, a greater moderator and a decent person. Didn’t the WMNF fire him acyear ago and then rescind it. What is their problem?

  6. Avatar

    Glen Gibellina

    July 22, 2021at7:49 pm

    What a poor excuse of an answer I’m not buying it

  7. Avatar

    Stephen Patrick Banks

    July 22, 2021at8:51 pm

    Ridiculous action that the Board has taken, without “coming clean” on what the comment was. Mr. Lorei “made” WMNF and deserves better than this. It looks like an excuse to remove such an asset to the community. I will not be donating to the station ever again as well…

  8. Avatar

    Connelly

    July 22, 2021at9:20 pm

    Management, like trees, die first at the top.

  9. Avatar

    Diana Kane

    July 23, 2021at8:47 am

    According to Merriam-Webster and plenty other reference guides and dictionaries, fascism has nothing to do with ethnicity.

    fascism noun
    fas·​cism | \ ˈfa-ˌshi-zəm also ˈfa-ˌsi- \
    Definition of fascism
    1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
    2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control
    early instances of army fascism and brutality
    — J. W. Aldridge

    I think it’s quite possible that Rob’s dismissal was a case of “out with the old and in with the new”. It does not fare well in a space of integrity. I once felt confident about WMNF’s principles and commitment to truth. I now question its leadership and board members’ intentions. I’ll continue to listen to the music and DJs I love but I’m not so committed to the current affairs, news, and direction of ‘MNF’s integrity.

  10. Avatar

    Hazeltine Hugh

    July 23, 2021at6:43 pm

    There must be more to this story?

  11. Avatar

    Linda LaPointe

    August 7, 2021at1:11 pm

    Mr. Rob Lorei brought intelligence, compassion, experience and expertise to each radio interview, and news program. These qualities have not been replaced by the ‘substitutes’. My family has supported the station for many years, a large part of this support was due to Rob’s vision and talent. Yes, the support was also financial; that ended when he was fired. Perhaps Mr. Greaves and Mr. Fernandes made an error; show us the emails that define your reasons. Their responses resemble Republican rhetoric.

    Also, the program manager who removed shows like “Two Worlds” and “Florida Folk” has added ‘insult to injury’. Why were programs switched;if volunteers asked for the changes, that is understandable. If not…? The two programs cited here were valuable on so many levels.

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