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Conservative journalist says she was fired by DC talk radio station over 'racist' joke about Kamala Harris' SOTU outfit

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Sarahbeth Maney-Pool/Getty Images

A D.C.-based conservative journalist says she was a victim of censorship after she was fired by the talk radio station WMAL-FM for a joke she made about Vice President Kamala Harris.

Amber Athey, the Washington editor for The Spectator magazine, wrote on Monday that the conservative-leaning radio station, which is owned by Cumulus Media, fired her from the "O’Connor & Company" morning radio program for violating the company's social media policy with a "racist" tweet.

"About a month ago today, I posted a tweet during the State of the Union address poking fun at Vice President Kamala Harris’s outfit," Athey recounts in her article. "Harris wore a chocolate brown business suit that was panned on social media — some users compared her to a Hershey’s chocolate bar, while others wondered why she wore the same color as her chair. I went for a UPS joke, featuring the company’s now retired slogan."

The joke was, "Kamala looks like a UPS employee — what can brown do for you? Nothing good, apparently.”

The line "what can brown do for you" is a reference to an old UPS slogan. In 2010, the company replaced that slogan in favor of, "We (heart) Logistics."

But left wing agitators on Twitter mischaracterized her joke as a racist attack on Harris, who is of black and Indian descent.

"No one had a problem with the tweet until a few days later, when I spoke critically of protests in favor of 'trans kids' at the University of North Texas," Athey writes. "A group of maniacal left-wing activists who want to chemically castrate children in the name of 'gender affirmation' came after me. All of a sudden, the Kamala tweet was being re-framed as racist and dozens of Twitter accounts were bragging about contacting my employers about my 'bigotry.'"

She says that members of the online outrage mob tried to cancel her by contacting her employers at The Spectator. While the magazine "laughed at and promptly deleted the angry emails about my Kamala Tweet," the top brass at Cumulus Media took issue with her tweet.

Athey had been hired as one of three female co-hosts of "O'Connor & Company" in the fall. On the afternoon of Wednesday, March 9, she says she was contacted by Jeff Boden, the vice president of Cumulus Washington, D.C, and Kriston Fancellas, the vice president of Human Resources about her social media post.

"They told me that the tweet I sent about Kamala was 'racist' and that subsequent follow-ups defending myself and making fun of the efforts to cancel me were unacceptable. I had violated the company’s social media policy, they said, and I was terminated effective immediately," Athey writes.

"They did not have the courtesy to offer me an opportunity to defend myself, nor did they speak to anyone at the program before handing down their decision," she added.

Athey says that during multiple attempts to appeal her employer's decision, "company officials admitted that the perception of racism was more important than whether or not my tweet was actually racist." Her appeals were unsuccessful.

She also accused WMAL of continuing to use her image and bio on its website and social media channels to promote their paid programming, even though she was fired.

"I am racist enough not to be paid, but not so racist that my likeness cannot be affiliated with the station, apparently," she writes.

She says that she wanted her job back, but now feels "obligated" to speak out about how she was censored.

"This incident has destroyed the integrity and reputation of WMAL and Cumulus as hosts of conservative content. We spoke frequently about the dangers of censorship and cancel culture on our program, and yet here they are bowing to the mob. If I can be fired for making fun of the vice president’s outfit, every single host on a Cumulus station is in danger of losing their job at a moment’s notice. Political commentary is worthless if it can’t be used to speak truth to those in power without fear of professional consequences."

Since publishing her article, Athey tweeted that WMAL and Cumulus are "doing damage control" and have removed her image from their social media pages and websites.

Larry O'Connor, Athey's former co-host, said Monday that he has "been fighting all month" to get her back on the air and that he "will continue to do whatever I can."

"I still hope that [Cumulus Media] will do the right thing," he said.

Cumulus Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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