NPR drops opera show over host Lisa Simeone's Occupy D.C. activist role

NPR says it will no longer distribute "World of Opera" as a result of Baltimore show host Lisa Simeone's activities with an Occupy D.C. protest group.

WDAV, the North Carolina classical music station that produces the show, said it will keep Simeone as host and try to distribute the show on its own. About 60 NPR member station had been carrying the show. WDAV is licensed to Davidson College, a school of about 1,800 students, according to station spokeswoman Lisa Gray.

"Our view is it's a potential conflict of interest for any journalist or any individual who plays a public role on behalf of NPR to take an active part in a political movement or advocacy campaign," NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm told The Associated Press. "Doing so has the potential to compromise our reputation as an organization that strives to be impartial and unbiased."

On Wednesday, Simeone was fired as host from the public-radio documentary show "Soundprint." The reason given by the Laurel-based production company, according to Simeone, is that she had violated NPR's Ethics Code. Simeone told the Sun that she does not believe she has, because she is not functioning as an NPR journalist.

Read Sun reports on the controversy here, here, here and here.

The fourth post lays out the spot NPR found itself as a result of the conflict between its ethics code and Simeone's activities as a spokeswoman for October 2011, one of the groups encamped in Washington. That post also includes an interview with Simeone done late Friday with her views on NPR possibly dropping the show.

Simeone said in the Friday afternoon interview that she thought the controversy was "really overblown."

After hearing of NPR's decision not to distribute the show, she called the decision an "over reaction" in an interview with NPR.

NPR also addressed online Simeone's assertion of a double standard at the public radio giant -- a charge she made in an email exchange with me Wednesday night. Read that here.

Here is what NPR posted on the issue:

She also told The Baltimore Sun she felt NPR was treating her differently.

"This sudden concern with my political activities is also surprising in light of the fact that Mara Liaason reports on politics for NPR yet appears as a commentator on FoxTV, Scott Simon hosts an NPR news show yet writes political op-eds for national newspapers, Cokie Roberts reports on politics for NPR yet accepts large speaking fees from businesses," Simeone said.

Rehm said NPR does not "see a valid comparison." She said those are "entirely different situations." She said Simeone was being an activist, which is "quite different" from what host Scott Simon does.

In an update, NPR added:

In an interview with us, Simeone said she thought there was no difference between her "partisanship and theirs." She said to make that distinction was "nonsense."

Here's the statement WDAV posted on its website:

Effective November 11, 2011, WDAV will begin distributing the popular program World of Opera, which had previously been distributed by NPR. Listeners’ experience of the show will be unchanged: World of Opera will continue to feature the same high-quality operas from European and American opera houses, and Lisa Simeone will continue as host. World of Opera, carried by some 60 public radio stations across the nation, is the only radio show in America devoted to broadcasting full-length operas captured in performance from around the world.


Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad