Click Here to Return to the Main Page


October 25, 2001

Bomb Threat at KPFA Radio Pacifica Radio Network Vice Chair Associates the Station and Its Listeners with Terrorists

Media Activist Organizations Call for Board Member Ken Ford's Immediate Resignation

Berkeley, CA--A bomb threat at KPFA radio Wednesday night forced staff to evacuate the station and go off the air for 45 minutes. Police searched the building and found no bomb as listeners rushed to the station fearing that it had been closed down by the station's parent organization, which has been locked in a prolonged dispute with the station. The bomb threat came the day after Pacifica vice chair Ken Ford was quoted in a San Francisco Examiner story describing Pacifica radio activists in the following terms: "They're zealots. ... I see parallels between this group and Al-Qaeda, the terrorists who bombed New York. They have an innate anger towards society as a whole."

"It is outrageous that Ken Ford would equate community radio activists who have criticized the fiscal mismanagement, censorship, and union-busting at the Pacifica Radio Network with the September 11 terrorists," said Berkeley Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek. "Clearly Ken Ford has no appreciation for the First Amendment or civil liberties," said Bernard White of the Pacifica Campaign. "Ford has repeatedly sought to slander our movement as violent, but not one shred of evidence has ever been offered to substantitate these allegations."

Given the current national and international climate, many civil libertarians are concerned that such reckless "terrorist baiting" could make peace and social justice activists subject to police surveillance and investigation or even worse. In fact, although there is no direct connection that can be made between Vice Chair Ford's comments in the Examiner and the bomb threat at KPFA, the following can be said: despite its sometimes controversial broadcasts, KPFA has not received a bomb threat in more than ten years (when the station read Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses over the airwaves). Additionally, KPFA is the station that has been most closely aligned with the free speech activists who disagree with the agenda of the current Pacifica board majority and management.

In the same Examiner article, Ford also suggested that Pacifica sell KPFA, its flagship station, or WBAI in New York. "KPFA in Berkeley and WBAI in New York are in the broadcast band reserved for commercial stations," Ford was quoted as saying. "I've been told non-commercial licenses sell for $30 to $40 million and commercial licenses sell for $150 to $250 million each. Think of what we could do with the difference! Let's parley these commercial licenses into more stations around the country. To me that's just common sense." Pacifica Campaign, Media Alliance, and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) are calling for Fo

rd's immediate resignation. The last time a Pacifica board member went public about the possible sale of a Pacifica station was during the KPFA lockout in 1999, when Pacifica national management locked the journalists out of the station for three weeks. That lockout, and the threat of a sale of one of Pacifica's stations, led to the largest protests in Berkeley since the Vietnam War. The Pacifica Network is the only independent radio network in the United States; it was founded to promote peace and social justice and to broadcast views that are rarely heard on commercial radio. KPFA, Pacifica's flagship station, is the oldest listener-sponsored radio station in the United States.

Pacifica Campaign Release



Summary of the firing based on report, then a summary of KPFA news report on the firing of Bessie Wash submitted by Steve Freedkin of the Progressive Portal web site. A short description of the bomb scare ends this release.


Pacifica's board chair, former Los Angeles city councilman Robert Farrell, tonight (Oct. 24) announced he has fired Executive Director Bessie Wash.

Wash, formerly station manager of Pacifica station WPFW, was named executive director by a board then controlled by former chair Mary Frances Berry. Wash has presided over a total deterioration of the network and its finances, including the banning of Pacifica's only remaining nationwide program, "Democracy Now," the "mainstreaming" of the once alternative daily Pacifica Network News, now the target of a boycott and a strike, the "Christmas Coup" at WBAI in New York, which resulted in dozens of staff members being fired and banned, and the expenditure of an estimated two million dollars on legal fees, public relations firms, and security services.

Farrell and the Pacifica Board majority have also agreed to a two and a half year old demand from KPFA's staff and community for mediation of the dispute which began in April, 1999 with the firings of popular KPFA station manager Nicole Sawaya and long-time Pacifica national affairs correspondent Larry Bensky.

The mediation, sparked by four pending lawsuits on behalf of listeners, national, and local advisory board members, is scheduled to take place November 1 in San Francisco.

A report published in today's San Francisco Chronicle says that Farrell, fellow board member Wendell Johns, and newly appointed board member former D.C. mayor Marion Barry will represent Pacifica.

KPFA Evening News, Wed., Oct. 24, 2001

Pacifica "dissident" board member Pete Bramson (KPFA, Berkeley) said on KPFA this evening (approx. 7:25 p.m. PT) that Pacifica National Board Chair Bob Farrell phoned him this evening to say that he (Farrell) has told Bessie Wash to leave her post effective tomorrow morning.

According to Bramson, Farrell said Wash expressed some concerns about the action, and indicated she may take legal action against Farrell or Pacifica.

When asked, Bramson said there has been no Board vote regarding Wash's tenure, and that he does not know whether there would be enough votes to oust Wash were it brought to a vote of the Board.

Bramson said he was surprised by the call from Farrell. While he and Farrell had had previous conversations about Wash's performance, Bramson was not aware Farrell was about to oust Wash.

Asked what impact the announced ouster of Wash might have on Pacifica, Bramson said it was not yet clear. "Change comes slowly to Pacifica, as you know," he said.

Farrell's reasons for firing Wash were not explained.

KPFA Evacuated After Bomb Threat

October 24, 2001: The KPFA studios were evacuated due to a bomb threat at about 5:45 pm today. After police checked the building, the staff was back on the air at 6:30 pm.