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August 3, 2021 3:11 pm

Jewish Talk Show Host Claims Program Cancelled by Florida Radio Station Due to Antisemitism

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Downtown Tampa, Florida. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The co-host of a cancelled talk show about Israel and Jewish current affairs accused a Florida-based radio station of antisemitism after the the program was taken off the air, the Tampa Bay Times reported on Monday, charges the station has denied.

Tampa’s community radio WMNF began airing the “Third Opinion” talk show in 2019, after local Jewish community leaders and the station’s then-general manager claimed that the radio station displayed an anti-Israel bias — most notably on the national show “Democracy Now!” and the local Middle Eastern affairs program “True Talk.”

“Third Option” — which was produced by Tampa’s Jewish Community Centers and Federation and aired Sunday afternoons — now runs only as a podcast, after the station declined to renew the show in May. It is hosted by investigative reporter Mike Deeson and Laureen Jaffee, a lawyer and member of the Centers’ board.

Deeson told the Tampa Bay Times, “The problem is the radio station [WMNF] broadcasts anti-Israeli, antisemitic tropes on the air on a regular basis. From day one they hated us, they absolutely hated us.”

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He continued, “I have no heartburn about WMNF canceling the show because I want to be on the radio. What I do have problems with is them getting public money. Your tax dollars are going to help support WMNF, and they have taken away the voice of the Jewish community.”

The program, which uses the tagline “two Jews, three opinions,” was launched “to get the truth out there about the state of Israel and the issues facing Jews there, in the United States and around the world,” Deeson said in the podcast’s introductory episode.

WMNF told the Times it decided not to renew the talk show in May after Deeson and Jaffee were warned numerous times and suspended twice “for violating editorial standards.”

Sean Kinane, WMNF‘s news and public affairs director, and general manager Rick Fernandes said in a statement, “It would not be appropriate for us to go into the details of the repeated violations of editorial standards, except to give one example in which the hosts played manipulated audio over the air. We did extend an opportunity for ‘Third Opinion’ hosts to submit a different type of show as a podcast or for our HD channel, but they declined.”

WMNF takes a “very clear and firm stance against antisemitism, which is poisonous and unacceptable,” the statement added. “WMNF remains committed to our values-driven mission: celebrating cultural diversity and remaining committed to equality, peace, and justice for all.”

The station further explained that another program was also not renewed, as the station underwent a number of changes to this programming this summer as part of a review process that takes place every two years.

Tampa’s Jewish Community Centers and Federation appealed the cancellation of “Third Opinion” to the radio station’s board of directors but to no avail, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Former WMNF general manager Craig Kopp said he worked for months with Deeson, Jaffee and Tampa’s Jewish Community Centers and Federation to develop “Third Opinion” into a show that would challenge the radio station’s programming, which he described as “unfair at the least, antisemitic at the worst.” In his resignation letter in April 2019, Kopp said WMNF had become such a “closed system that even antisemitism can be tolerated.”

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