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WNYC's Leonard Lopate, Jonathan Schwartz Fired Over Conduct Allegations

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) -- Longtime WNYC public radio hosts Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz have been fired by the station, following accusations of inappropriate conduct.

On Dec. 6, New York Public Radio chief executive officer Laura Walker announced the suspensions of the two hosts. On Thursday, WNYC reported Lopate and Schwartz had been fired following two investigations 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 statement said.


WNYC said the investigation into 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."

The prior investigation resulted in one-on-one anti-harassment training for Loptate and a warning, the station said.

The investigation into Schwartz's conduct was prompted by "multiple complaints of inappropriate behavior received earlier this month and followed previous complaints, including as recently as November of this year," the station said.

The station said the complaints were "investigated and substantiated by New York Public Radio and resulted in disciplinary action at those times."

"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," the station said in the statement. "But our higher commitment continues to be to ensure an inclusive and respectful environment for our staff, guests and listeners."

The Twitter account for "The Leonard Lopate Show" (@LeonardLopate) had been renamed Thursday afternoon to "WNYC at Midday." According to a tweet from the account, there will continue to be midday programming from 12-2 p.m. from Lopate's producers. The show tweeted "Leonard has been a fixture of WNYC, and a New York institution, for over 30 years, and we deeply thank our loyal audience of listeners for all their support."

A WNYC news story on the dismissals by Ilya Marritz and Jessica Gould detailed some of the allegations against Lopate, 77, and Schwartz, 79.

The story said some of Lopate's producers "described a turbulent workplace, with a host who has exhibited emotional outbursts and, they said, has made sexually suggestive comments," while including some specifics.

In one incident reported by WNYC News, a senior producer who filed a complaint in March of this year said Lopate was conducting an interview about undocumented immigrant women brought to the U.S. and forced to perform sexual acts, and claimed that Lopate muted his microphone and told producers, "Sounds like how I treat my staff."

Lopate told WNYC News it was possible he made the comment, calling it a "stupid statement" and his "Groucho moment," but saying, "I've never crossed any lines."

In response to some other allegations about remarks staffers said he made, Lopate said, "I would never say anything like that."

Other producers told WNYC they couldn't imagine Lopate saying anything inappropriate.

"I've known Leonard for a very long time and he's never said anything sexually suggestive at all," said Susie Stulz, who has worked intermittently at the show since 1996. "I am profoundly grieved because I think it's so unfair. He's such a good guy."

WNYC's Gould said Lopate said immediately after the decision that he is "totally shocked and really sad" and he believes the decision is "unjust."

Schwartz was accused of touching a female host in an inappropriate way and making a sexually suggestive comment back in the early 2000s, WNYC News reported. The host, Kerry Nolan, was quoted: "It wasn't the least bit traumatic. It was inappropriate."

In another incident in 2014, a female colleague said Schwartz often commented on her appearance and made her uncomfortable, WNYC News reported. Schwartz was quoted in response, "Can't a man say, 'You look good. Gee, you're attractive?'"

Schwartz earlier told the station, "This episode in my life truly is the most hurtful, outrageous and saddest I've ever experienced — and more." He declined to comment to WNYC's Marritz on Thursday.

Lopate had been with WNYC since 1985, and was the host of "The Leonard Lopate Show" – a two-hour midday show covering a variety of issues. WNYC noted that Lopate interviewed everyone from Barack Obama to Liza Minnelli on his show.

Lopate has won a number of awards, including a George Foster Peabody Award.

Schwartz was the host of a weekend music program focused on the American songbook -- and an expert in particular on the music of Frank Sinatra. He had been with WNYC since 1999, but had been active on New York radio since the 1960s.

The move follows reports of harassment by retired WNYC host John Hockenberry.

An article by Suki Kim published earlier this month on New York Magazine's website described accusations of harassment and bullying lodged against Hockenberry by several women. Hockenberry apologized in a statement to Kim, saying he should have been more aware of how the power he wielded over others could be construed.

Other figures in public radio who have been forced out over allegations of sexual misconduct include National Public Radio news chief Michael Oreskes, who resigned Nov. 1 following allegations that he had kissed two women who were seeking jobs when he was with the Times. Oreskes was a former vice president and senior managing editor at The Associated Press. The AP had one complaint of "unwelcome and inappropriate verbal communication" while he was at the news organization.

At the end of November, Minnesota Public Radio fired former host of "A Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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