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.
“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.”