Florida radio station cans Jewish news show, community outraged

Tampa Jewish community slams radio station’s decision to cancel pro-Israel Jewish program started to offset claims of station's bias.

Dan Verbin ,

Tampa, Florida
Tampa, Florida

A Tampa, Florida community radio station was met with outrage from the local Jewish community after it cancelled a Jewish affairs talk show that was started two years ago after the station was accused of anti-Semitism, reported the Tampa Bay Times.

Third Opinion began in 2019 after WMNF was criticized by Jewish community leaders for having an anti-Israel bias, especially its airing of shows such as Democracy Now! and Middle East news show True Talk.

Third Opinion took a pro-Israel position and was produced by the Tampa Jewish Community Centers and the Tampa Federation.

Mike Deeson, a retired investigative reporter and the show’s co-host, said in an interview with the Times that the program’s cancellation is a sign that the station is back to its old ways.

“The problem is the radio station broadcasts anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic tropes on the air on a regular basis,” he said. “From day one they hated us, they absolutely hated us.”

In a statement to the Times, WMNF disputed Deeson’s allegation. The station said that he and co-host Lauren Jaffee, a lawyer and Jewish Community Center board member, had been warned multiple times and twice suspended for violations of editorial standards prior to the show’s cancellation.

“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,” wrote Sean Kinane, the station’s news and public affairs director, and general manager Rick Fernandes.

The statement also said that the station has a “very clear and firm stance against anti-Semitism, which is poisonous and unacceptable.”

During the May conflict between Israel and Hamas, Third Opinion reported on the thousands of rockets launched from Gaza into Israel and how Israeli air strikes were a defensive measure, while other programs airing on the station took a decidedly anti-Israel position, condemning Israel for its response to Hamas rockets.

The Tampa Federation and Jewish Community Centers appealed the cancelation of Third Opinion. WMNF’s board of director’s upheld the station’s decision.

TWMNF receives approximately $350,000 in annual public funding, with 70 percent of its budget coming from donations, the Times reported.