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Baltimore Symphony Orchestra fires flutist for spreading conspiracy theories

How COVID conspiracy theories spread online
How COVID conspiracy theories spread online 06:57

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has fired a longtime flutist after months of issues with her controversial social media posts.

"Principal Flutist Emily Skala has been dismissed from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in accordance with the progressive discipline policy agreed to in our collective bargaining agreement with the Musicians' Association of Metropolitan Baltimore Local 40-543, AFM," BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome said in a statement, CBS Baltimore reports. "Ms. Skala has had discipline imposed upon her over these past few months; unfortunately, she has repeated the conduct for which she had been previously disciplined, and dismissal was the necessary and appropriate reaction to this behavior."

Skala had a history of sharing conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the 2020 election.

The BSO's issues with Skala spilled into the open in February, when the orchestra publicly distanced itself from her views.

She'd claimed COVID-19 was made in a lab in North Carolina and sold to a lab in Wuhan, China, where it was then planted in a wet market. The first confirmed human infections were in Wuhan. However, the virus is thought to have a natural origin, likely jumping from bats to humans. The possibility it might have accidentally been released from a lab remains under investigation.

Skala reportedly also made incendiary comments in internal emails. She defended herself in a March letter to The Baltimore Sun, claiming management had created a hostile work environment.

"I had posted information from what I understand to be peer-reviewed studies, independent journalists and licensed medical doctors who weren't chosen to be presented on our mainstream channels, along with educational videos and charts," Skala wrote. "These pieces contradict what we are being told through mass media."

On Tuesday, Skala told the Sun she believed the incident that precipitated her firing happened July 23, when she went to Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to hand in her new W-4 tax form and didn't have a mask with her.

When she discovered her key card had been deactivated, she said, she tried to open the door. She said she had been barred from the building and said she believes management was looking for a reason to terminate her.

"From February until now, the BSO has repeatedly violated my constitutional rights in response to audience and donor and subscriber pressure," Skala told the newspaper. "They've committed many crimes against me, none of which they have acknowledged even to themselves. It would not be right to let that go unaccounted for. I would hate for this to happen to anyone else."

Skala was appointed principal flutist in 1988. She joined the faculty of the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University in 1989. She's performed on a number of recordings, and released a solo album in 2002.

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