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WNYC Fires 'On The Media' Co-Host Bob Garfield For Alleged Bullying

May 18, 2021
Originally published on May 18, 2021 5:27 pm

Bob Garfield, host of the public radio show and podcast On The Media, has been fired. According to a statement from New York Public Radio, an outside investigation found that Garfield violated the company's anti-bullying policy. Garfield was the subject of a similar investigation in 2020 that resulted in, "disciplinary action and a warning about consequences if the behavior continued."

On Twitter, the veteran journalist and critic denied that he was fired for, "bullying, per se but for yelling in 5 meetings over 20 years." Garfield continued, "the provocations were just shocking. In time the story will emerge and it is tragic."

On The Media is an Edward R. Murrow and Peabody Award-winning series broadcast on more than 400 stations. Garfield is known to be something of a contrarian fond of using colorful language. He once described himself as, "Charles Kuralt with an attitude problem." For many listeners that was part of his charm.

An author and critic, Garfield wrote the AdReview column for Advertising Age for 25 years. He created The Genius Dialogues, a podcast for Audible in which he interviewed MacArthur Fellows.

New York Public Radio has reckoned with talent before. In 2017, hosts Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz were fired when outside investigations found that, "each individual had violated our standards for providing an inclusive, appropriate, and respectful work environment." That same year, John Hockenberry, host of The Takeaway, departed the station. An investigation by WNYC News "found two previous allegations of sexual harassment at The Takeaway that were not reported to top station executives," as well as a "hostile work environment."

In its statement, New York Public Radio says managing editor Brooke Gladstone will continue hosting On The Media.

The show released this statement on Twitter:

As you may have heard: Bob is no longer co-host of On the Media, for a pattern of behavior violating NYPR's policy on bullying. We support the decision. Thanks to everyone who's reached out.

The OTM team

— On the Media (@onthemedia) May 18, 2021

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Bob Garfield, host of the public radio show and podcast On The Media, has been fired. According to a statement from New York Public Radio, which produces the series, Garfield was terminated as a result of a pattern of behavior that violated the company's anti-bullying policy. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has more.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Bob Garfield is a veteran journalist, critic, author and radio host.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOB GARFIELD, BYLINE: Is the world ready to take listening and empathy lessons from Glenn Beck? No.

BLAIR: Along with his co-host Brooke Gladstone, On The Media is broadcast on more than 400 stations. The show has won a number of honors, including Edward R. Murrow Awards and a Peabody. New York Public Radio says this is the second time Garfield has violated its anti-bullying policy. In 2020, an investigation resulted in, quote, "disciplinary action" and a warning about consequences if the behavior continued.

On Twitter, Garfield writes that he was not fired for, quote, "bullying per se but for yelling in five meetings over 20 years." He goes on to say the, quote, "provocations were just shocking. In time, the story will emerge, and it is tragic," end quote. He has not yet responded to NPR's request for comment. Garfield is known to be a tough interviewer. In 2016, when Glenn Beck was on his apology tour, Garfield challenged his sincerity.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

GARFIELD: So are you adjusting your message as a question of principle or because you're just trying to suss out a better market reach?

GLENN BECK: What does that leave me with, Bob? What does that leave me with?

BLAIR: Garfield once described himself as Charles Kuralt with an attitude problem, and that is partly what endeared him to his fans. In the vast, bland American wasteland of homogenized, regurgitated media, writes Alec Baldwin in a blurb for one of Garfield's books, there is a lone heroic taco truck. Bob Garfield is that taco truck. Garfield and Gladstone co-hosted On The Media together for 20 years. They could get testy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

GARFIELD: Can we go mega-transparent, Brooke?

BROOKE GLADSTONE, BYLINE: Yes.

GARFIELD: Let's go mega-transparent.

GLADSTONE: Sure. Go ahead.

BLAIR: After Trump was elected president, they were transparent about their differences in how they should cover the media.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

GARFIELD: So what does that tell us about how to approach fairness? Are you being fair or unfair to your audience by reflexively throwing bones at ideas that you don't think have merit?

GLADSTONE: What you describe is in no way how I describe fairness. The way that I intend it is simply to put more voices on the air, not to give them a free ride.

BLAIR: Gladstone, who is also On The Media's managing editor, will continue as the show's host. In response to Garfield's firing, the show tweeted, as you may have heard, Bob is no longer co-host of On The Media for a pattern of behavior violating NYPR's policy on bullying. We support the decision. Thanks to everyone who's reached out. In its statement, New York Public Radio writes that it is committed to, quote, "providing an inclusive and respectful environment for our employees, guests and listeners."

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF DIRTWIRE'S "SAILING THE SOLAR FLARES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.