Amy Goodman hosts Pacifica Radio's daily newsmagazine, Democracy Now!, and co-host's WBAI's morning show Wake Up Call. She was the 1998 recipient of the George Polk Award and the Golden Reel for Best National Documentary from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters for the radio documentary, "Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria's Military Dictatorship," which she co-produced with Jeremy Scahil. The two were also honored by the Overseas Press Club, a citation they rejected because of the Club's agreement that journalists not question US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke at the awards dinner, in the midst of the bombing of Yugoslavia. Goodman has also won numerous awards for the radio documentary that she co-produced with journalist Allan Nairn, "MASSACRE: The Story of East Timor," including the Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting, the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Silver Baton, and the Armstrong Award. In August 1999 she was deported twice after trying to enter East Timor in order to cover the historic referendum on self-determination. Goodman has reported from Israel and the Occupied territories, Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, and Peru. Goodman also speaks and runs workshops around the United States on media activism and community radio.
As Iris Keltz says in this March 2003 profile of Goodman, Goodman has "impeccable Jewish credentials” ... her grandfather was an orthodox rabbi, .. there are Holocaust survivors in her family, ... she spent part of her youth in Israel".To which, JB can only add "Amen!"
Goodman, however, is not blinded by ethnic loyalty. Her committment to human rights is too strong for that. In her journalism, she puts a great deal of effort into giving voice to the Palestinian people. As Keltz finishes her article, "Now that's my kind of Judaism!"
David Goodman is a brother of Amy Goodman.
This a long piece about the most important alternative news source on the public airwaves sent by a long-time member of the WBAI Board. Many of the details I know to be true. It is not a pretty story, Jeffrey Blankfort (FB, 2 January 2016):
Amy Goodman And The Theft Of Democracy Now!
Democracy Now! started out as a noble and ambitious idea. Pacifica had a five-station network in major markets and college stations and smaller-market affiliates, but except for its news hour, it didn’t have a signature national program. The idea was to develop one. But what should it be?
Program directors and selected programmers from Pacifica’s five stations and other contributors decided by consensus that the program should tackle the issues of the day, generate new audiences, and draw upon and showcase “house” talent. It should be a news-magazine format and should feature, on a rotating basis, hosts from every Pacifica station who, in turn, would bring new voices to the air. The goal, ultimately, was that the program would have a uniquely Pacifica imprint and would reflect its commitment to serving the informational needs of its diverse audiences. It was agreed that although a network-wide project, the the program would be produced in New York at WBAI, under the directorship of its program director, Samori Marksman, who had originally conceived the DN program concept.
Dear Pacifica Supporter
Sparked by the foundation’s current problems, a number of discussions have sprung up on various Pacifica lists that attempt to address (1) Pacifica’s crushing $3 million debt to Amy Goodman and Democracy Now, (2) how Amy Goodman privatized Democracy Now and took it away from Pacifica, and (3) what effect that loss has had on Pacifica’s financial stability and overall well being. However, those discussions have been – not only fact-deprived – but also regrettably one-sided. Therefore, I have decided to share the following report, never previously published, which may rewrite what many have accepted as historical fact. The report was passed to me by a high-level former senior producer at WBAI, who was well placed to observe, at close range, the entire trajectory of Amy Goodman’s career at WBAI and at Pacifica – from her arrival at the station … to her rise into prominence … to her ultimate departure from the Pacifica network (after profitably tucking its most lucrative franchise into her handbag on the way out). The writer of this report is someone I know personally, and have found to be both perceptive and credible. What he/she has drawn is a portrait of Amy Goodman that Pacifica’s audience, let alone the general public, will not be familiar with – or perhaps even want to be confronted with. I was surprised by a good part of it. You will be too. Clearly, the writer has a strongly negative opinion of Amy Goodman as a person – while at the same time fully acknowledging her competence as a professional. The writer also blames Amy for significantly destabilizing Pacifica, the effects of which continue to this day, as well as depriving the foundation of huge revenues. [Note: The revenue deprivation is not a fact in dispute. In the 14 years since Amy “privatized” Democracy Now by wresting it away from the foundation, under extremely questionable and hotly contested circumstances, it has been estimated that approximately $77 million in Democracy Now revenue, which should have flowed to Pacifica, was instead diverted to Amy’s privately owned corporation. It is also not a disputed fact that Amy’s private corporation has pushed Pacifica into nearly $3 million of current additional debt. See my previously published detailed financial analysis, which I have attached–Steve Brown] Anyway, here is the report. Whether you choose to believe all of it – some of it – or none of it – is of course up to you.
Amy’s Grandpa’s Gift Keeps On Giving – to Amy
Amy Goodman’s grandfather (a rabbi of the Orthodox tradition), I was told, had made a long-term charitable pledge to WBAI that would continue even after his death. Ostensibly, the gift was in acknowledgment of the opportunities provided to his granddaughter by the station, to learn her craft and do the kinds of stories she otherwise would not have been assigned, as a mere intern, in a typical newsroom setting. His gift also was a way of assuring that Amy would find few, if any, impediments to success in her chosen career at WBAI.
It had to have been a generous gift, because it was repeatedly leveraged by Amy to allow her to do as she pleased at WBAI. Even as a new arrival in the news department, she did what she wanted, functioning apart from the regular staff and doing stories on her own, making it clear that she was above taking direction and was quite “special”— truly “an exception to the rulers,” as she proclaims about “her” program. To say that she was “driven” is an understatement. Amy poured herself into her work and was single-minded in developing her reportorial skills (mentored by colleagues in this regard, although I’ve never heard her credit anyone). Her conduct in the workplace, however, was atrocious and she seemed to take great pride in being unmanageable-characterized by epic tantrums, blowouts, meltdowns, screaming at and cussing out others, and displaying a persona so aggressive and intimidating that people tended to get out of her way and, in the case of management (especially Valerie Van Isler and Samori Marksman), tended to give her whatever she demanded for the sake of peace and to make her happy.
What made Amy happy was getting whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted it. She was not a team player in the news department; she felt she was the news department, and it was important to her that everyone, including those who were showing her the ropes of the trade, understand and accept that. That mind-set applied beyond the news department. Amy not only became a “star” at WBAI, she felt she was WBAI. Her self-importance and narcissism knew no bounds; it contrasted dramatically with the humble, shy-girl image she portrayed to the public.
(I note here that a key figure in her development as a news reporter was WBAI’s legendary program director, Samori Marksman, who seemed to be the only person with whom Amy would mind her P’s and Q’s. She would not have had either the political/ideological perspective or access to the broad spectrum of contacts she now enjoys had it not been for him. He was that kind of person; he’d offer whatever help one needed to produce a good piece of work for WBAI. It is no exaggeration to say that Samori principally was responsible for introducing Amy to a world she never knew and to people she never would have been able to connect with. Needless to say, in short order she commandeered his contacts, too, and made them her own – Chomsky, Zinn, Vidal, Belafonte, Tony Benn, Dick Gregory, etc. I’ve never heard her credit or thank Samori publicly for his contribution to her professional development.)
Soon, it was clear that Amy was actually her own news division within the news department. She would commandeer interns who should have been rotated throughout the department and make them work strictly on the stories she was doing – and nothing else. With this free help she was able to tackle stories more complex than the run-of-the-mill variety, and she was obsessed with recognition (awards and prizes) that credited only Amy Goodman. The news department was no longer a cooperative; it became “Amy Goodman’s Great Journalism, Inc. ….. and Stuff from Second- and Third-Tier People.” Things got exponentially worse when she demanded to be appointed to the position of WBAI’s news director – using as leverage her grandfather’s gift, which, as she made very clear to the timid and compliant general manager, Valerie Van Isler, she could easily stop, which would, in turn, reflect poorly on Valerie with Pacifica’s executive director and executive board. Amy’s appointment as news director by Valorie Van Isler benefited both of them. Valerie was abysmal as a general manager, both alienated and alienating, generally disapproved of by staff, and dedicated to impeding progress on just about everything. Amy treated her with uniform disregard, even joining a petition to replace Valerie. A call by WBAI staffers for Valerie’s resignation or dismissal made her even more subservient to Amy, more cooperative. Amy was a valuable asset to have. On the flip side of the coin, Valerie’s tenuous circumstances emboldened Amy; she knew she could dictate her will to Valerie and that Valerie would happily oblige. Even before she landed the coveted news-director position, there had been rumblings about Amy’s frequent (self-assigned) “projects” requiring lavish hotel and traveling expenses and per-diems for herself and “companions” that the station could ill afford; and also about her commandeering of shared station equipment for her exclusive and exclusionary use outside of the newsroom. Although Valerie was notorious for not wanting to spend money on anything, she was very pleased to get Amy’s projects funded. The rumbling grew louder when the projects seemed not to be owned by Pacifica, or not presented to the public as Pacifica-originated projects, but rather as Amy Goodman productions.
And then rumors began to fly
It appears that Amy, as an employee, enjoyed privileges that even the station’s bookkeeper at the time, Sybil Wong, did not have. Valerie never allowed Sybil to see, let alone handle and take charge of, the station’s books. But Amy not only was allowed access to them, it appeared that she also had check-writing authority and was a signatory on at least one account. That account, I’m told, was the conduit through which Amy would receive funds – solicited from foundations and private donors ostensibly to underwrite “Pacifica/WBAI” projects – but which wound up funding only Amy Goodman. Those funds, it was later confirmed to me, never went to Pacifica’s national office, as they should have. Instead, in many cases, they were banked in New York (unknown to the national office) and became an additional source of income for Amy (who at the time was the highest-paid employee at WBAI, earning more than Samori, the program director). Valerie, as station manager and a Pacifica executive (as her official letterhead confirmed), lent credibility and cover to Amy’s funding proposals by assuring donors and foundation funders that their money was going to, and being responsibly managed by, WBAI and Pacifica, when it was actually Amy who controlled that money and directed it to her own ends.
As I was told, that bank account or its use was never revealed to Pacifica, and there has been no official record of its existence. That is why former WBAI bookkeeper Sybil Wong, who now lives in China, was prohibited access to WBAI’s books for the entire time she was employed as bookkeeper – an issue she complained about many times in staff and union meetings. In utter frustration with Valerie’s way of operating, Sybil quit and decided to devote her time to researching and writing about her family’s ancestry (the Ming Dynasty).
A WBAI employee recounted to me a blowout he witnessed between Valerie and Amy in the station’s kitchen area. Amy, he said, was screaming at a dejected-looking Valerie, “It’s my money! Don’t you f–- with my money!” He said it was as if he was looking at a mad woman. Time and again, Amy would have confrontations with Valerie over money.
The public never saw or experienced this other, “dark” side of Amy, as did those of us who worked with her every day. A young college graduate I often ran into at the station came to me one day to say it was his last day at WBAI and it was a pleasure knowing me. He said he couldn’t take it anymore, working with Amy, and it was his “last day on the plantation.” He recited a litany of issues he had with Amy and her staff—including racism, sexism and exclusion from meaningful involvement in programming.
Pacifica’s Original Democracy Now! Is Hijacked
Democracy Now! started out as a noble and ambitious idea. Pacifica had a five-station network in major markets and college stations and smaller-market affiliates, but except for its news hour, it didn’t have a signature national program. The idea was to develop one. But what should it be? Program directors and selected programmers from Pacifica’s five stations and other contributors decided by consensus that the program should tackle the issues of the day, generate new audiences, and draw upon and showcase “house” talent. It should be a news-magazine format and should feature, on a rotating basis, hosts from every Pacifica station who, in turn, would bring new voices to the air. The goal, ultimately, was that the program would have a uniquely Pacifica imprint and would reflect its commitment to serving the informational needs of its diverse audiences. It was agreed that although a network-wide project, the the program would be produced in New York at WBAI, under the directorship of its program director, Samori Marksman, who had originally conceived the DN program concept.
Logistical and programmatic issues were worked out and DN was ready to make its debut. But a huge problem arose that created tensions throughout Pacifica. Amy Goodman, WBAI’s news director at the time, wanted to be host and most prominent contributor to the kickoff show, which meant that the consensus decision was being undermined. This would put WBAI Program Director Samori Marksman and General Manager Valerie Van Isler in a compromising position. But Amy didn’t care about that. As Amy saw it, their job was to make it happen the way she wanted it, which meant excluding everybody else, including other veteran Pacifica newspeople who were at least equally deserving of a shot. To achieve this, Amy kicked her hammering of Samori and Valerie into high gear and had “supporters” (that is, wealthy donors) call them to express their desire that Amy host the program. Sadly, Samori (surprisingly) and Valerie (not surprisingly) capitulated. Amy, as usual, got what she wanted.
I (and several others, I learned later) took Samori to task for caving in. Just when Pacifica was beginning to behave like a network, with all parties/stations working cooperatively to achieve a great thing, it all came undone by WBAI’s resident enfant terrible. “Why did you go along with the program?” I asked Samori in a private one-on-one. He said he felt badly about it, but at the time the decision “had been made to go with Amy.” He said he wasn’t happy about what had happened, but added that the saving grace was that Amy would do a creditable job, and that he would help her programmatically to make DN work. He also said that he hadn’t given up on the original plan—alternating hosts from all the stations. (Which, of course, never happened.)
It wasn’t long before Amy upped the ante. She wanted no “interference” (i.e., no supervision or input) from anyone, especially National Program Director Steve Yasko, whose job it was to assure the integrity and quality of the Pacifica programming and to supervise its content. She wanted to be the program’s permanent host—no other hosts, and no rotation of hosts. Everybody else was to be locked out.
Then came another demand: Amy wanted the program to be a Pacifica “must-carry” – meaning that all Pacifica stations would be ordered to air the program, whether they wanted to or not, and she wanted it to air in morning drive time—again, as a must-carry directive from National. She wanted the “must-carry” edict to apply to afternoon drive time as well.
Note that her new position as host (and virtually only voice) on DN was in addition to her presence as co-host of Wake Up Call, the program immediately following DN, and also her presence on the regular news hour in the evening. In other words, Amy would now be the host and/or leading figure in – not one – but three of the station’s most important programs, each one airing every day, in prime time – the effect of which was to turn WBAI and the Pacifica network into a promotion machine for her new and growing business enterprise.
And that wasn’t all. For in an extraordinary example of “triple-dipping” – unique in Pacifica and perhaps anywhere else in broadcasting – she demanded and received a salary for each of those three programs.
Finally, and perhaps even more extraordinary, was her demand for an extensive personal staff – to be paid for by WBAI and Pacifica – but over which no one at Pacifica, including its national program director Yasko, was to have any input or control as to hiring or salary. She also demanded an additional “discretionary” budget for DN, separate from the regular payroll, which she would also control, free of oversight or “interference” from anyone at WBAI or Pacifica. So although the foundation was to bear the costs, it was Amy who placed herself in charge of setting the rules. Then came a demand for a dedicated office in Washington, D.C., since, she said, the DN program would focus heavily on national politics. But no sooner were arrangements made to accommodate that demand than she added yet another new one. She also, she said, needed office space in New York, complete with its own exclusive support services—computers, phones, fax, etc., – plus the right to take over, for her own exclusive use, the production studio that WBAI’s programmers shared for the station’s other shows. Which meant that it became routine that Amy and/or “her” staff would suddenly show up and commandeer all of the station’s production studios and facilities, leaving all of WBAI’s other producers to figure out how to deal with the resulting production traffic jam. As far as Amy was concerned, any problems or disruptions she caused were irrelevant. DN was now the network’s “flagship” program, with her at the helm, and therefore no obstacles should be tolerated nor expense spared to produce it.
In effect, Amy had wrested the Pacifica program from Pacifica; fashioned it in an undemocratic way (by locking out Pacifica personnel who should have shared the hosting of the program); made Pacifica pick up a very substantial tab for its production, which went way beyond projected costs; and for all intents and purposes “owned” the program.
After the death of Samori Marksman on March 23, 1999, Amy went full blast with DN and literally re-branded the program as her personal property. An investigation into this will expose sub-rosa dealings that were arranged and concluded without the Board’s full knowledge and approval, and a simultaneous campaign of terror that Amy instigated and choreographed in order, first, to arrogate the program to herself as a private enterprise; secondly, to run that private enterprise with Pacifica’s money, personnel and material assets; thirdly, to re-brand and use the program as the hub for other related financial endeavors of her own; fourthly, as a scheme to enrich herself while systematically indebting Pacifica; and, ultimately, to use the program and her heavily promoted identification with it as “co-founder and host” to cause grave economic harm to Pacifica, including possible dissolution, thus positioning herself advantageously as a “logical and worthy inheritor,” should the network be forced to part with any of all of its assets.
When National Program Director Steve Yasko, an affable, openly gay man, attempted to shape DN editorially into what the program was originally designed to be (that is, when he tried to do his job), Amy went into out-and-out war mode – a tactic she would repeat with other targets during the course of this whole debacle. She leaked supposedly “confidential” memos from her to Yasko, deftly written to convey the false impression that she was being harassed by him, that he had created a “hostile work environment” and – in what would become her constant theme – that Pacifica was trying to take “her” program away from her and was subjecting her to “censorship.”
She and her staff concocted and spread vile, horrid lies about Yasko throughout the network, suggesting that he was a mean and hateful man who had not yet worked out his latent self-loathing, and therefore had an inability to deal with strong heterosexual feminists (such as Amy Goodman). It was a carefully choreographed and relentless smear campaign. As a result, Yasko began to receive threatening phone calls from irate listeners, and people began showing up at WPFW (Pacifica’s Washington, DC, station), and at Yasko’s Washington, DC, residence to physically and psychologically intimidate him. He literally began to get sick – losing sleep, losing weight, fearful that he was being followed and might be attacked, and worried that ,even if he quit, he was so maligned by Amy and her putrid lies that his chances of landing a meaningful job in the industry would be extremely low.
These tactics were accompanied by a blitz of lawsuits by Amy against the Pacifica Foundation, alleging harassment, civil-rights violations, a hostile work environment and other despicable lies. The aim was not only to keep Pacifica on the defensive, but also to bankrupt it. The Foundation, naturally, had to hire lawyers to defend against Amy’s spurious charges, which she filed through her union, AFTRA, and through a battalion of well-connected, wealthy, liberal lawyer friends. Pacifica spent millions of dollars dealing with Amy’s lawsuits, which she reported to the public – not as a plaintiff – but as a poor, helpless, beleaguered victim fighting a noble battle against an evil Pacifica that was trying to take “her” program from her.
The AFTRA union reps themselves intensely disliked Amy, and were also fed up with her and her many obviously frivolous complaints. They objected having to represent her in a self-serving war against Pacifica. They concluded that she had cost the union more than any other individual in recent memory, and found her to be extremely difficult to work with. They resented being used as a weapon to carry out a personal agenda against her employer by concocting an utterly false narrative that she was an earnest worker unjustly wronged. When she realized that AFTRA was not going to be an enthusiastic player in her game plan, she had her lawyer friends take up the slack … and pick up the pace. (These were the same lawyers who, three years later, would write the one-sided Democracy Now! contract that privatized and then gave away the program – on which Pacifica had expended millions of dollars to create, staff and produce – to Amy Goodman’s privately owned corporation.)
Incidentally, Amy was the only worker at WBAI who belonged to AFTRA, which was the regular union for broadcasting personnel. But for reasons lost in the mists of history, WBAI’s workers incomprehensibly were part of an Electrical Workers Union bargaining unit. As a shop steward, I constantly asked why workers at a radio station weren’t members of the industry union. As the only AFTRA member at WBAI, Amy was paid the industry-standard rate and enjoyed benefits that no one else at WBAI enjoyed. At one point, interim general manager Utrice Leid recommended to Pacifica Executive Director Bessie Wash that WBAI should pursue a transfer of the shop to AFTRA. Although normally unions don’t take kindly to other unions “raiding” their members, in this instance both AFTRA and UE were extremely cooperative about a possible handover – both unions marveling at the rarity of a case in which management was actually taking the lead in doing The Right Thing by workers. Neither union had ever conducted a handover before, but both expended their best good faith efforts to make it happen. And so it did. Such was the kind of change that Pacifica Executive Director Bessie wanted for Pacifica. The union transfer raised salaries for all employees and provided benefits they never had before, including catastrophic-care and retirement benefits. Bernard White, Amy’s devoted but hopelessly duped acolyte, was later able to draw upon his AFTRA benefits when he was dealing with a major health challenge. But guess who openly opposed the move to AFTRA and worked feverishly behind the scenes to torpedo it? Yes, Amy Goodman! She resented other workers having the same benefits that she singularly enjoyed at WBAI, and did everything in her power to derail the handover. But this was one time – perhaps the only time – in which she did not get her way.
Sometime around 2000/2002, the foundation’s national headquarters – amid considerable protest throughout the network – was relocated from Berkeley to Washington, DC. Shortly thereafter, WBAI’s interim general manager, Utrice Leid, was sent to Washington, DC, to become national program director (replacing Steve Yasko, who had been terrorized out of his job by Amy Goodman’s smear campaign, as noted above). Bob Daughtry, the general manager of WPFW (the the DC station), replaced Leid as interim general manager of WBAI in New York. Leid said that her very first meeting with the national news staff in DC turned into a grief session about Amy. They demanded to know: “Is Amy Goodman coming here?” Leid said that she didn’t know, and when she asked why they asked the question, they replied that they would all quit if she did come to DC. To put it mildly, they did not like her at all, neither on a personal nor professional level. They were unanimous in their position that they would quit rather than have Amy physically present among them or even in the same building.
Soon after her arrival in DC, Leid and the national news staff set to work strengthening the regular one-hour national news program that they produced daily for Pacifica. They also wanted to create a new Pacifica News Hour, which would amplify a news story or two covered in the regular news program. It was a a good idea, and Leid, as national news director, said she would go with it.
I worked with Leid and the national news team, and found them to be great people – a small, culturally diverse group of serious journalists who loved the work they did and worked well with each other. They performed well under pressure and impressed everyone with their desire to stretch out and do even more. Leid began a practice of short daily editorial meetings that included the sound engineers. And this small team delivered – every day – two self-contained, highly produced news and feature-story programs that many (including myself) felt far superior to DN – and at no extra cost, either to the news unit or to Pacifica. This team also increased the distribution of the program by increasing the number of affiliates that wanted it, and the money from those affiliates went into Pacifica’s coffers. All omens and auguries bode well for this new program, except one: Amy Goodman viewed it as unwanted rival for audience attention that might steal some of the thunder from “her own” Democracy Now! Program.
Going After the Whole Enchilada
In a crisis, particularly one that is engineered, there is Machiavellian opportunity. By manipulation and tantrum, the wily Ms. Goodman had gained the power traction she desired within WBAI. But in the course of her campaign, however, she and her coven of co-conspirators saw that it was also possible to go after the whole enchilada—to take over the entire network the way she snatched its prized DN, of which she continues to name herself “co-founder.” (Although as a devout me-ist, she never names the “co-” part of her putative title.)
An astute player of the race card, she leaned heavily on African Americans at WBAI to vouch for her credentials as a righteous “sister.” They performed their tasks well. At a meeting in Harlem to condemn then-interim GM Utrice Leid, Robert Knight, an African American and the station’s award-winning investigative journalist, proclaimed to a packed house that “Amy Goodman is the blackest woman I know.” He was, in fact, not lying, because Knight didn’t actually know many black women, and they evidently returned the favor. [Note: The writer of this report is an African American—Steve Brown] This was, of course, before Knight eventually ran afoul of Bernard White, was ignominiously kicked out of the elite circles of the Goodman/Gonzales-led Pacifica Campaign, and then – after White became de facto general manager of WBAI – was fired from his job at the station altogether.
Meanwhile, Bernard White, Bob Lederer, Mimi Rosenberg, Vajra Kilgour and a passel of Amy-bots went on polluting WBAI’s airwaves with anti-Pacifica vitriol as part of the effort by the Pacifica Campaign to discredit and dislodge the national board and seize control of the network. Their black adherents were especially useful when it was necessary to attack other blacks (in which they sometimes earned extra points for twofers—that is, not simply attacking black women, but black women who also held positions of power and influence within Pacifica). Bernard White was official Door Opener for the full-scale attack on all blacks in leadership positions at Pacifica (i.e., anyone Amy saw as an impediment to her takeover plan), and gave the public the illusion that their war against Pacifica was principle-driven, and race neutral.
But in fact it was anything but. For example, the planning sessions for Amy’s anti-Pacific assaults that took place at WBAI, day after day, were heavily segregated by race – the “black” meetings included few or no whites, and the meetings of “Amy’s people” included almost no one of color. The blacks who were enlisted to support Amy were selected for their high-visibility people in practically all spheres of life. She was soon able to “prove” her legitimacy and credibility among black folks across the spectrum from Harry Belafonte to Mumia Abu Jamal. But not all of them could be fooled forever. For example, Pam Africa, a spokesperson for Mumia, actually apologized to Utrice Leid publicly, during a recent community meeting in Brooklyn (at which I was a witness) for allowing herself and Mumia to be used that way. She told the audience that she came to realize there was another agenda afoot. “As revolutionaries we have to make things right,” she said, asking to be forgiven a lapse in revolutionary judgment.
I firmly believe that Amy and Co. needed to feel that they had strong black support before going full tilt on taking over the entire network. But hard as they tried to get that support – especially in New York and D.C. – it just wasn’t forthcoming. That was clear when, in spite the protests and demonstrations against her by Bernard White and the Amy Goodman/Juan Gonzales Pacifica Campaign, interim GM Leid succeeded in implementing the most successful fund drive in WBAI history. Even jamming of the station’s phone pledge lines, and sending operatives into the tally room to nullify pledge cards, couldn’t sabotage the drive, which raised $1.2 million, most of it by credit cards, in just over two weeks. And this was accomplished by offering very few premiums, opting instead for a direct appeal based on the quality of programming. The result of that successful drive was a decisive blow to the imagined “credibility” that the Goodman/Gonzales/White faction supposedly enjoyed with listeners, and quite possibly persuaded Amy that the push to take over the entire Pacifica network should be delayed for fear of public sentiment turning against them.
However, delaying the plan didn’t mean canceling the plan. Amy still intends to own Pacifica one day. In the meantime, she is carefully placing her people in parallel systems. One such is the Manhattan Neighborhood Network cable television system. When MNN refused to allow “her” DN program to dominate its programming schedule and take over a significant amount of its physical space and production equipment, she went after the MNN station manager, an African American man (whose name I can’t recall right now) [Note: I believe the head of MNN referred to was Anthony Riddle, who later became a WBAI general manager—Steve Brown], with a laundry list of false accusations and complaints against him. She then launched an email campaign against him and, with the aid of her ally Leslie Cagan [Note: Leslie Cagan, who was a former Pacifica National Board Chair, was the person who negotiated and signed, in secret, the infamous Democracy Now! contract that privatized DN and gave it away to Amy Goodman’s private corporation—Steve Brown], got him fired – and succeeded in having Dan Coughlin, her former employee (and former Pacifica ED) hired to replace him.
It was also Amy’s political clout (and Leslie Cagan’s influence at the national level) that helped Coughlin land the top job at Pacifica as executive director in 2002. (AFTRA protested, but to no avail.) Returning to his old Amy-like ways, Coughlin was fired in 2005 for “unaccountable ‘borrowing’” of funds to the national office, secret bonuses to key employees, and a lack of transparency.
(I remember that when Amy was on “special assignment,” back in the old days at WBAI, Coughlin had been an employee of Amy’s, as a DN producer. He often ran down the hall to Utrice Leid’s office in desperation to ask her what the stories he should put on upcoming episodes of DN. She readily helped … until she heard and saw him berating a DN intern for not understanding the importance of “knowing what the story is.”)
Strange Things Began to Happen at WBAI
Strange things began to happen at WBAI after Amy, having outworn her welcome in Washington, D.C., returned to “her” office at WBAI to continue producing DN – and simultaneously direct the misinformation-and-terror campaign she was leading, with Juan Gonzales, Bernard White, Bob Lederer, and others, against the Pacifica executive director and national board. This was just prior to a total blowout at WBAI.
At that time, we began to see people coming into the station whom no one knew. They were everywhere, and made free use of WBAI’s phones, fax machines, copiers, and stationary supplies. They walked around the station with an air of authority—as if they belonged there and nobody was to ask them any questions. They all seemed to be reporting to the far end of the hall, where Amy Goodman and Bernard White had adjoining offices. Because these people pre-empted so much of the stations space and facilities, those of us trying to do our work found ourselves having to readjust our normal work functions and schedules around these nameless “Amy people.”
It was not unusual that on some days every space dedicated to our work was occupied—the performance studio, the production studio, the conference room that we used as the tally room during pledge drives, the kitchen area, the reception area, the phone and computer bank that adjoined the newsroom. We were inundated with all kinds of people invading the station and the only thing we could do was hole up in our offices until air time and keep the doors locked until we returned to our offices after our shows. WBAI was transformed into Protest Central, and at the direction of Amy and Bernard, various groups performed their assigned tasks – making anti-Pacifica protest signs, using the phone bank to make private calls, sending faxes out, holding planning meetings, producing anti-Pacifica carts and other audios in the production studios – all with the aim of destabilizing the network and dislodging its current management and governance, but having nothing at all to do with the business of running WBAI as a radio station. Many colleagues and I began asking ourselves. “What the hell is going on here? Why is Valerie allowing this?” It was “Amy’s people” getting ready for action, we were told. It got worse. People were roaming around the station doing what, nobody knew. They were even sleeping in overnight. The station looked and smelled like hell. The cleaning staff filed complaints with the manager of the building about the condition of WBAI’s offices, which forced them to do so much cleaning every night that it threw them way off their cleaning schedule. Our neighbors on the floor complained about the filthy condition of the bathrooms. Things went missing at WBAI and equipment frequently was out of order.
Soon it all became unambiguously clear: “Amy’s people” were preparing for a huge protest and grand assault and physical occupation of the station based on the lies and distortions that she, Bernard White and others had spread over the airwaves throughout the network. Although a network-wide takeover was the goal, WBAI was to take the lead. Valerie herself didn’t seem to object about what was going on, even though we asked her, as general manager, to do something about it – not only because we personally didn’t feel safe, but also because the station and all of its equipment – for which she was legally and morally responsible – were being used and abused by people who couldn’t care less about the safety of staff personnel or the stations’ facilities.
Someone apparently reported the planned takeover of the station to Pacifica ED Bessie Wash. I got a call from her one evening. I had stayed late to prepare my show for the following day. I had never met Bessie, but she told me who she was and why she was calling. She said she had heard some distressing things from talking to people at the station (she did not identify them), and she said they all asked her to talk to me and to Utrice Leid to corroborate what they had said. I told her exactly what I saw and what was developing at the station. Many of us were very uncomfortable with the arbitrary and reckless decision by Amy and Bernard and their followers to put the rest of us and the station itself in danger by this attempted takeover – and I expressed these concerns to Bessie. I told her, and even though we reported our concerns to Valerie, nothing was done. In fact, on the very day Bessie talked with me, “Amy’s people” had decided on the precise day they were going to take over the station, and I even heard some of them talking about bringing guns for an armed showdown.
Bessie asked me who had been letting the non-WBAI people into the station during the preceding weeks to conduct their campaign against Pacifica. I told her that they let themselves in because there was no lock on the front door. (Astonishingly, WBAI had been in its new space at 120 Wall St. for a considerable time but had no lock on its front door, despite entreaties to Valerie to safeguard the station and anyone working there, especially late at night.) Bessie thanked me for talking with her. She also congratulated Utrice Leid – at that time host of the popular afternoon show Talkback – for winning a recent vote by WBAI’s programmers who thought she was best suited to be program director for the station. Actually, Leid hadn’t even run. Errol Maitland, who very often engineered for Amy and Wake Up Call, had entered her name on his own, as the best person for the job. Leid won convincingly, as it turned out. Laura Flanders was second.
Two days after our initial conversation, I got another call from Bessie, telling me that she would be in town that evening to meet with Utrice Leid. At that meeting, according to Utrice Leid, Bessie said that the conversations she had with Leid and other staffers concerned her greatly, and that she had come to New York to take some “executive actions” the following day, since Valerie was not responding to the situation. Although FCC law requires the broadcast license holder to take all reasonable measures to protect the broadcasting facilities, Bessie said, here was a general manager (Valerie) who, clearly aware that something awful was brewing, was doing nothing to secure the space and equipment and the station’s personnel. Additionally, the contemplated action by “Amy’s people,” if true, would expose Pacifica to all kinds of legal problems, should someone be injured or worse during the planned “occupation” of WBAI, of which the general manager had knowledge but did not respond accordingly. Bessie told me she had come to New York to secure the station herself.
The front door had no lock at all, so a lock had to be installed. And people roaming all over the station and having access to and using equipment in rooms and offices that should be locked meant that someone had keys, or access to keys, for all the offices and studios, and opened them. Those locks had to be changed, Bessie said. A locksmith was contracted the next day and was asked to do the job late in the evening to avoid any run-ins with protesters.
There were several WBAI employees (I won’t name them) who, like me, were outraged that Amy and some of our so-called colleagues didn’t care about and never asked us what we thought. Our view was that whatever their beef was with Pacifica, they were dead wrong to orchestrate a takeover of the station, disregarding the safety of others and the very real possibility that the equipment that the listeners’ money had paid for would be stolen, damaged or destroyed. We all agreed that the chief antagonists in this drama were engaging in a CIA-type of operation, propagating false information to mobilize people, many of them sincere and well-meaning, behind contrivances that hid the real reasons for their anti-Pacifica protests and actions. We weren’t in a war with anybody; we just wanted to make sure that the station, the physical plant and its equipment, would not fall into the hands of misguided zealots who were acting like they had nothing to lose.
Utrice confided to her colleagues what Bessie Wash was about to do in order to ensure the safety of the station. They breathed a sigh of relief, and turned over their office keys to her, each key representing one lock that did not have to be changed, an expense avoided. The locksmith brought his journeyman son to assist him, and Bessie, an assistant with baby in tow, and Utrice Leid and I were there keeping them company and making sure everything went smoothly. A late-night host who saw what was going on (there was no attempt to hide it from him) began “reporting” the non-event with the urgency of an air raid. And thus began the next wave of propaganda – the so-called ‘Christmas Coup.”
If three unarmed women and a baby could carry out a coup, it doesn’t say much for the other side’s tactical capability, does it? If anything, it was a “Christmas Countercoup,” to prevent the plan of Bernard White and the rest of “Amy’s people” to celebrate Christmas as the new “owners” of WBAI. [A further report may be forthcoming from this source; but this is all I have right now—Steve Brown]