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Woman who says she was fired for bumpersticker is offered job; Liberal radio faces attacks

Miriam Raftery

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The San Diego affiliate of Air America Radio has offered a job to Linda Laroca, a Vista, California woman who is suing her former employer after purportedly being fired for having the progressive talk radio station’s bumper sticker on her car.

“KLSD has offered her a job in the sales department with a guarantee that if she has a KLSD bumper sticker on her car, she won’t be fired,” KLSD radio host Stacy Taylor told RAW STORY.

Taylor was uncertain whether Laroca would seek the job. Laroca could not be reached for comment.

In a lawsuit filed Feb. 21, Laroca alleged that Beverly Fath, her former manager at Advantage Sales and Marketing, spotted the KLSD bumper sticker on Laroca’s car in a grocery store parking lot, where they had met to exchange some paperwork. According to Laroca’s suit, Fath called KLSD “that Al Franken left-wing radical radio station,” told Laroca that she could be a member of Al-Qaida, and fired her on the spot.

Laroca’s suit seeks lost wages and damages for wrongful termination for violations of the state labor code as well as public policy. California is one of the few states which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on political beliefs. In addition, Laroca claims emotional distress and violations of the California constitution.

The employer later claimed the comment about firing was a joke and asked Laroca to return to work, Laroca said in an interview on Taylor’s radio show Mar. 10.

Laroca declined, citing a climate of intimidation. Laroca’s former employer has declined to comment on the suit.

“The unwelcoming, very hostile environment is clearly there,” Taylor said.

Asked if he was surprised to learn that a listener had lost a job over a bumper sticker, Taylor replied, “Yes and no. Going all the way back to 2004, we’ve gotten a lot of anecdotal evidence, call-ins from people, with bumper stickers for liberal causes.” Listeners reported reactions ranging from angry looks to more serious confrontations. “In fact we had one woman who said her husband was fired for listening to Air America on the job.”

This was not the first time that Laroca had been the target of hostility for expressing her political views in public.

“A couple of weeks before the firing incident, she had her tires slit over a confrontation over a T-shirt she’d been wearing that was not flattering to President Bush—at the same Vons parking lot where this incident happened,” Taylor said.

KLSD isn’t the only liberal radio entity to encounter suppression tactics. Syndicated Air America host Randi Rhodes is being sued by CACI International Inc. for comments she made on her show about the role of CACI employees in the torture of prisoners in Iraq. CACI, an Iraq contractor, is facing legal action over an interpreter’s alleged role in torturing detainees. The company denies the claim.

Other Air America hosts also say they face intimidation on the job. Atlanta-based Air America host Mike Malloy says he has received death threats against his 19-month-old daughter.

“We get e-mails,” he told RAW STORY. “I’ve turned them over to the FBI. They threatened to kill her, to beat her up, to rape her.” Malloy says he has previously received threats from the religious right, adding that Atlanta police once advised him to get a permit and carry a gun.

Recently, conservatives have purchased several stations broadcasting Air America broadcasts and changed the programming. In Phoenix and West Virginia, right-wing Christian groups bought out Air America affiliate stations and converted to Christian formats. In Missoula, Montana, a station switched from Air America to music programming “because advertisers were being intimidated by the right wing,” Malloy said.

In Phoenix, liberals have launched a grassroots effort to raise the half million dollars needed to start a new progressive talk radio station.

Asked why more progressives don’t buy stations to assure liberal programming, Malloy replied, “So-called liberals in this country are not organized. They are not focused…There are liberals with money but apparently they don’t give a damn.”

Taylor observed that many rightwing talk show hosts including Fox News personalities have long been reporting that Air America is about to go out of business.

“It’s all totally bogus,” mused the KLSD host, who sees a silver lining to the controversy. “The good side about this is that all these righties are kvetching…saying we’re about to go under – yet they seem very obsessed about it. Anybody who would deface a car, slit a tire, or fire somebody – they realize that their own arguments are becoming sort of bankrupt.”

Asked earlier this month by The Nation about Air America’s future, host Al Franken declared, “Look, Bill O'Reilly alone has said that Air America was on the verge of collapse thirty-six times. We're not going anywhere."

Correction: In an earlier correction, Scott Tempesta, a producer for the station, was quoted as saying that the offer had not been formal. We then posted a correction saying that we had "overstated" the offer.

However, the station program director, Cliff Albert, subsequently contacted RAW STORY to inform us that our earlier story had been true:

"I did tell Linda last week that I wanted her to do some work for us since she was so passionate and loyal about KLSD... and that I first wanted her to call our sales manager to schedule an interview with him to see if a sales job would be a good fit. If not, then I have told her I would like her to do some assistant producing for us. She has not been interviewed yet, but our sales manager is attempting to set up an interview with her."

Originally published on Wednesday March 15, 2006.


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