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WEDU stands by host Rob Lorei after WMNF firing

WMNF said Lorei used an ethnic slur. Lorei disputes that account, and his other employer, WEDU, is backing him.
Rob Lorei was fired by radio station WMNF after they said he used an ethnic slur in an email. WEDU, on which he hosts a show, is supporting him.
Rob Lorei was fired by radio station WMNF after they said he used an ethnic slur in an email. WEDU, on which he hosts a show, is supporting him. [ "OCTAVIO JONES | TIMES" | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Jul. 23

After a local radio station fired him for using an ethnic slur, WEDU PBS is standing by Rob Lorei, who hosts a weekly panel on the TV channel.

Since his termination from WMNF in April, Lorei has continued to host the panel Florida This Week on WEDU, west-central Florida’s PBS channel.

Lorei was fired from WMNF on April 9 without a public explanation. On Thursday, WMNF emailed its readers and offered an answer: Lorei, the station said, was fired after using an ethnic slur in an email to a listener.

In a written statement to the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday afternoon, Lorei disputed the station’s explanation and said the email in question was from a listener who had defended the actions of a far-right group.

The word Lorei said he used is “kapo,” a German word used to describe prisoners who aided their captors in Nazi concentration camps. Lorei said he always understood it to describe an ally of the far right.

Erin Blankenship, interim executive director of the Florida Holocaust Museum, disputed Lorei’s framing of the term in a message to the Times on Friday.

“[Lorei] mentioned he always thought it was a referral to someone who was an ally of the far right,” Blankenship wrote. “I personally have not heard that. But we would say that any comparison to the Holocaust is very troublesome because it minimizes the experience of Holocaust survivors and those who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.”

In an emailed statement to the Times, WEDU President and CEO Paul Grove defended Lorei.

“We’ve taken this situation seriously and have thoroughly investigated the implied allegations and find no merit in them. We have spoken to WEDU personnel, guests from Florida This Week and members of the community and everyone supports Rob Lorei’s history of respect and professionalism. We stand by him,” Grove wrote.