Off air: WNYC fires two stars for inappropriate conduct

Off air: WNYC fires two stars for inappropriate conduct


norman lebrecht

December 21, 2017

press statement:

New York Public Radio has terminated the employment of Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz following two separate investigations overseen by outside counsel. These investigations found that each individual had violated our standards for providing an inclusive, appropriate, and respectful work environment. In each investigation, an outside investigator interviewed multiple witnesses as well as Lopate and Schwartz.

The investigation into Leonard Lopate’s conduct was prompted by recent allegations of inappropriate behavior, following a previous substantiated investigation in February of this year of inappropriate remarks made by Lopate to staff. That previous investigation resulted in one-on-one anti-harassment training for him and a warning to Lopate that he was creating an uncomfortable work environment.

The investigation into Jonathan Schwartz was prompted by multiple complaints of inappropriate behavior received earlier this month and followed previous complaints, including as recently as November of this year, that were investigated and substantiated by New York Public Radio and resulted in disciplinary action at those times.

These decisions were made by management in consultation with and with the support of the Executive Committee of the New York Public Radio Board of Trustees.

We recognize that Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz have made many contributions to New York Public Radio and we are deeply saddened to have to take these steps. But our higher commitment continues to be to ensure an inclusive and respectful environment for our staff, guests and listeners.



  • Doug says:

    The Cultural Revolution marches on. Foreward, comrades!

    • Sue says:

      We live in an age which demands respect rather than actually earning it. A complete 360 degree turn on what I was told in the teaching profession. “Teachers no longer command respect from students just because you are a teacher – it must be earned”. I submit that women haven’t demanded or earned respect in the modern world. It’s time they did so. Read my lips..”There is no such thing as automatic respect. It needs to be earned. This applies to all people.”

    • harold braun says:

      Rather,the cultural sell out.Hysteria,McCarthy level.Of course,many third raters get a chance now,like in 1930s germany.

  • Jasper says:

    Schwartz is a font of information about Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and others who fall into this musical genre. He was a major force in promoting the Great American Songbook. Although often insufferable in his on-air monologues, his playlists and accompanying commentary offered revealing insights into a treasure trove of great music. He will be missed.


  • buxtehude says:

    Wouldn’t call Schwartz a star and Jasper’s “insufferable” is on target concerning his monologues. Lopate through is, or was a star, national public radio version, a tremendous talent for author interviews, especially in fiction and painting but also in many non-fiction categories, a man who created not just a persona that signaled alertness and intelligence but was also a welcome, inviting and unique voice.

    He commanded a real following. For those of us who think books matter this will come as a shock. I’m very curious to know just what it’s about.

    • buxtehude says:

      PS: I doubt there’s any broadcaster originating on WNYC, the New York City NPR station, that remotely approaches his stature. These admins better have something Big

      • buxtehude says:

        PPS: Also a dyed-in-the-wool feminist, if that matters.

      • MWnyc says:

        From the bit I’ve seen elsewhere, I suspect that Lopate’s misconduct has more to do with loss of temper than with sexual misconduct.

        Also, I’ve heard an audible fall-off (not severe yet, but audible) in the quality of his work in recent months (he’s 79). (There has also been more frequent use of guest hosts.)

        Perhaps – and I’m only speculating here – there was an age-related fall-off in self-control in Lopate’s off-air interactions with staff; also, it’s possible that WNYC management took advantage of the current climate to dismiss a fading star with relatively little pushback from the public.

        Anyway, it sounds like WNYC had been taking appropriate, non-public steps to discipline Lopate and Schwartz before now. The big question remains why they tolerated John Hockenberry for as long as they did.

        PS – The other WNYC broadcaster whose stature approaches Leonard Lopate’s, as Buxtehude surely knows, is the one whose show immediately precedes Lopate’s – Brian Lehrer.

        • MWnyc says:

          PS – I’m wrong. Lopate is 77. Schwartz is 79.

        • buxtehude says:

          Disagree about Lehrer, though he’s also on live every day for hours. As to the case of Lopate, who professes complete bafflement — I wonder whether the station owes the listeners and maybe the man himself, more consideration.

          • MWnyc says:

            You may not like Brian Lehrer as much as you do Lopate – that’s entirely a matter of personal preference, and listeners have been preferring one over the other (and good-naturedly arguing about it) for decades – but his public stature is at least as high.

            WNYC’s reporting on this (and other outlets are following its lead) seems to me to be concentrating too much on the off-color remarks Lopate is said to have made. To me, those remarks are very minor, and at least one female producer on Lopate’s show has publicly agreed. I think the bullying is a much more serious issue, and it’s probably a much more justifiable reason for firing him. I wish the reporting would concentrate more on that.

            Buxtehude, do you agree that Lopate has been off his best game recently? Quite a few commenters at WNYC’s website have mentioned it – and, again, I suspect that the WNYC bosses noticed it as well and are seizing an opportune moment to get rid of an elderly fading star who was unwilling to retire.

            (I also think that WNYC president Laura Walker may be overcompensating now for having tolerated John Hockenberry’s egregious behavior for so long, because she has lately been getting some heavy criticism for that – and for her $850,000 annual salary, which she doubtless would like to keep.)

  • Save the MET says:

    I assume the use of the word “star” is in lieu of just saying on air talent. Not sure either can be called a “star”.

    • buxtehude says:

      Doesn’t tell me much, especially those particular harassment claims against LL. Live broadcasts, tense atmosphere, big deal? Evidently they wanted him out & got him by bureaucratic ambush.

      From this reported $850k station manager (that’s $400+ for every hour of a normal work week) I’d expect at least finesse.

      I suppose we’ll learn all all all about it, in the meantime it reminds me of a John Dowland lyric — wish I could find it — about being cast out and abandoned at the end of a career in music, the old story.

      Not much of a WNYC listener but I don’t doubt Lopate’s special genius for what he did, experienced across decades, and the rare set of qualities this required. Here in the US another author interviewer Terry Gross is also outstanding, in different ways. At the BBC I expect many of you will hold up the commanding Stephen Sackur, agree with his presumed attitudes or not.

      One of the rare qualities common to all three: they listen, they are interested & alert, and they’re able to use each answer as a springboard, whether for further, higher, or deeper. You can imagine the gratitude with which authors encounter these two Americans.