The “he said/she said” between the WMNF Board of Directors and ousted news director Rob Lorei became more heated Thursday afternoon after board president Will Greaves sent his second expository email of the day. Earlier, Greaves told WMNF subscribers that Lorei had been terminated for using “an ethnic slur towards a listener from a station email account.”
Greaves’ second statement, directed at the media, claimed that a politicized email exchange gone wrong in January was not the reason for the firing, as Lorei had indicated during a Catalyst interview July 13. Instead, Greaves said, “the term Mr. Lorei used in November 2020 was not a political term. It was an anti-Semitic racial slur that is highly offensive to any Jewish person.”
Lorei’s contract with the community radio station was terminated April 10. He had been with WMNF since its inception in 1978.
“Anybody that knows me knows that I’ve always embraced diversity,” he said Thursday evening. “Just look at MNF’s first 42 years of history. Look what I helped build.”
When he was fired, Lorei said, he was barred from accessing the station’s email system. So he wrote down the details of the exchange from memory. “If the board says it was in November, I’m going to have to defer to that,” he said.
A listener had written him regarding the right-wing neo-fascist Proud Boys organization, “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.”
During the July 13 interview, Lorei said the emails went back and forth several times. “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.”
The precise word he used, Lorei said today, was kapo.
“It’s a term that people in concentration camps used to describe people who sided with their captors. After I was fired I went to the U.S. Holocaust Museum website and looked it up. And it’s not listed there as an ethnic smear. If the board says it’s an ethnic slur, OK, but I used it in a political context. I was having a political discussion with a person. We were talking about people who defend the Proud Boys.”
Even if he’d misremembered what month it was, Lorei said, “keep in mind the Proud Boys were a fascist organization in November. They didn’t change their stripes. They’ve always been a fascist organization. So whether it’s November or January, I don’t think that’s material.”
Lorei said he has a theory. “I think they’re having trouble with their fund drives, and I think they’re looking for a way out of it. And they’re trying to paint me as a bad guy, as a way to say ‘Listeners should support us.’
“I think our listeners are smart enough to know that I’m not anti-Semetic. The listeners know me, because they listened to me every day for 42 years, and they know I’m not.”
Requests for comment from Greaves were not immediately returned.