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Al Lewis fired 3-31-01

posted on:

From: Bert Holland
Date: Sat Mar 31, 2001 1:41pm
Subject: Al Lewis fired!

David Rothenberg announced this morning that Al Lewis will not broadcast today (Saturday) at noon. GrandPa has been terminated. That's all Rothenberg told about it.

Bert Holland


From New York Newsday, 4/3/01

WBAI Pulls Grandpa Off Air

By Peter Goodman


"Grandpa" Al Lewis, former TV "Munster" and now a prisoners' rights activist, was pre-empted from his regular Saturday show on listener-supported WBAI/ 99.5 FM over the weekend after a guest the previous week criticized the station's management.

"This is one in a series of programs that Al Lewis has aired that fell way beneath our standards for good programming," general manager Utrice Leid said yesterday. "He violated our on-air policy of not attacking people, and of not discussing station information on the air." The future of the program, she said, depends on a meeting tomorrow among Lewis, Diabel Faye, whom she described as interim public affairs director, and herself.

Lewis, whose work to overturn the Rockefeller drug laws and improve prison conditions has earned him a significant following, blamed his removal on the ongoing battle over control of the station. Leid, who got her job after a "Christmas coup" in which the locks were changed and many people were banned from the station, is backed by the owner, the Pacifica Foundation. Pacifica has been opposed by many of the producers, hosts and volunteers, who fear that the station owner is trying to move away from its pacifist, "progressive" principles.

"They are sniping and picking off, one by one, successfully, the producers they don't like, that they feel are opponents of the regime," Lewis said.

The incident was touched off when Randy Credico, director of the William M. Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, read a press release on the air demanding that Leid and others resign. "He didn't know I was going to read that," Credico said yesterday. "He shouldn't take the fall."

Lewis was not the only personality displaced last week. Deepa Fernandes, producer of a weekly segment of the analysis program "Behind the News," was also dismissed. Fernandes did not understand that broadcasting on WBAI is "a privileged position" that "requires responsible broadcasting," Leid said. Just as with Lewis, she said, Fernandes "fell beneath the standard."

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