Pacifica Radio's Controversial No. 2 Executive Resigns
Christmas Coup at WBAI 99.5 FM
Utrice Leid Acted As Hammer for Pacifica Board
Progressive Staff, Incited Violence
NEW YORK, (Dec. 12) -- In another sign of the growing
influence of a nationwide listener movement demanding democratic
change at the nation's oldest listener-sponsored broadcaster, the
controversial No. 2 executive at the Pacifica Radio network resigned
yesterday following sustained protests.
National Program Director Utrice Leid, who helped carry out last
December's "Christmas Coup" at Pacifica station WBAI 99.5 FM in New
York, resigned her post effective Tuesday after only two months on
the job, according to an internal Pacifica memo obtained by the
A former talk show host, Leid was installed as WBAI General
Manager last Christmas holiday weekend. Senior Pacifica executives
and Leid changed the locks in the middle of the night, installed
security guards and cameras, and then fired and banned some 25
producers and staff.
WBAI listeners, staff, and community groups slammed Pacifica's
actions as a blatant case of union-busting and decried the climate
of hate, race-baiting, and physical intimidation at the station.
"This resignation is another important step in our campaign to
restore accountability to the Pacifica Radio network," said Juan
Gonzalez, the coordinator of the Pacifica Campaign, a nationwide
listener pressure group.
"But the injustices at and the destruction of WBAI cannot be
swept under the rug," he added. "All the producers that were
arbitrarily fired and banned must return and a new democratic
governing structure must be put in place at WBAI and around the
The resignation comes in the wake of an investigation into
allegations that Leid had assaulted award-winning journalist Amy
Goodman, who hosts the national daily news show "Democracy Now!,"
and countenanced attacks on WBAI morning news anchor Robert Knight
and others. Leid ultimately fired Knight and he remains banned from
The "Democracy Now!" staff left WBAI, saying it was an unsafe and
hostile workplace. In retaliation, Pacifica executives suspended the
"Democracy Now!" staff without pay and yanked the show from four of
five Pacifica stations. "DemocracyNow!" continues to broadcast on
almost 100 community radio and TV stations across the country. See
The Pacifica Radio executive leadership and national board
claimed the moves at WBAI were necessary to expand and broaden the
station's audience. But WBAI's Arbitron estimated audience has
dropped an average of 30 percent in recent months. In addition,
on-air and off-air fundraising collapsed, the station's signature
voices were driven out, and a nationwide boycott movement emerged to
oust Pacifica's national management.
Pacifica reformers say Leid was a hammer for corporate raiders on
the Pacifica Board who sought to eviscerate the station's
hard-hitting progressive programming and even sell WBAI's valuable
license. WBAI is positioned right in the heart of the FM dial in the
world's most competitive -- and lucrative -- media market. It's
valued at anywhere from $150-$250 million.
Leid garnered national and international attention this past year
when she used WBAI's airwaves to slander critics and incite
violence. She sparked protests from Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta
and others when she claimed that Amy Goodman fabricated the 1991
massacre in East Timor - a story for which Goodman won numerous
At one point, Leid banned discussion of 9-11 on WBAI's airwaves,
ordering music and poetry instead.
But it was Leid's race-baiting and incitement to violence that
generated the largest storm of controversy. She openly called on her
"stalwart soldiers" to take up "arms" in a "war" against Pacifica's
critics. Even though nearly all of the staff fired at WBAI were
African-American, and New York's leading black journalists and trade
unionists rallied to their defense, Leid claimed that her critics
were engaged in a campaign of "European psychological warfare
against Africans," presumably meaning her.
Despite the outcry, the embattled majority on Pacifica's Board
continued to back her. But in recent months, a nationwide listener
movement has forced the resignation of all of the officers on the
Pacifica National Board, including the Pacifica Board chair,
vice-chair, treasurer, and secretary.
The network's entire top management has also been forced to step
down, including executive director Bessie Wash, national program
director Steve Yasko, and now Yasko's replacement, Utrice Leid.
Leid was presiding over a network whose national programming was
virtually gutted. Even the network's national news show, the
Pacifica Network News (PNN), had lost virtually all of its affiliate
stations to a progressive daily news show, Free Speech Radio News,
produced by striking PNN free-lance reporters.
The Pacifica Campaign is an organization of staff and listeners
alike calling for democratic accountability at the 52-year-old
network. The campaign has called for the return of fired and banned
staff who possess the skills and experience necessary for the
long-term success of WBAI and the Pacifica Radio network.