An NPR opera host has been fired after she admitted to serving as a spokeswoman for the ongoing Occupy D.C. movement.
Lisa Simeone said Thursday she was fired over the phone while NPR’s code of ethics was read to her. Earlier this week, Roll Call reported she was affiliated with October 2011, an Occupy-related group currently holing up in D.C.’s Freedom Plaza.
“Well, I work in radio still, but this is totally different,” Simeone told Roll Call on Tuesday. “I’m a freelancer.”
Simeone was the host of “Soundprint” and “World of Opera.” Neither program was produced by NPR, but “World of Opera” was distributed by the station and “Soundprint” aired on local affiliates.
“I find it puzzling that NPR objects to my exercising my rights as an American citizen — the right to free speech, the right to peaceable assembly — on my own time in my own life,” Simeone told the Baltimore Sun on Wednesday before she was fired.
Simeone maintained she is not a news reporter and therefore her involvement with the movement is not a conflict of interest.
“I don’t cover news. In none of the shows that I do, do I cover the news,” she said. “What is NPR afraid I’ll do? Insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of `Madame Butterfly?’”
Simeone said she has been serving with about 50 people on a steering committee for the occupation protest on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. She said it is not connected to the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York, but they share similar philosophies.
On the October 2011 website, a pledge from someone signed Lisa Simeone said it’s time for the U.S.’s “worldwide torture regime to end”:
It’s long past time for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to end, for U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen to end, for our worldwide torture regime to end, for Guantanamo to be closed, for political, military, and corporate criminals to be held accountable. We’re spending billions of dollars on destruction abroad and abrogation of rights at home — the only growing sector of the economy is the abusive National Security State. Meanwhile, millions of people are out of work, they’ve been thrown out of their homes, they can’t afford health care, they’re routinely vilified in national discourse, and the so-called news media is busy mouthing the majoritarian line. These things are all connected. As Hannah Arendt put it, ‘Empire abroad entails tyranny at home.’ I will be in Washington on October 6th to demand that my government stop abusing its own and other people and start answering to its citizens.
— Lisa Simeone
NPR issued a statement on its website Wednesday saying it had learned Simeon was participating in an “Occupy D.C.” group but that she is not an NPR employee.
“We’re in conversations with [local affiliate] WDAV about how they intend to handle this,” the statement read. “We of course take this issue very seriously.”
NPR’s ethics code regarding political activities for its employees states: “NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.