NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Latest on the firing of a public radio reporter in Chattanooga, Tennessee (all times local):
The attorney for a public radio reporter fired by the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga says internal emails show a pattern of “retaliation” by school officials after Republican lawmakers complained that she hadn’t identified herself as a member of the news media in meetings she attended with them.
Justin Gilbert is representing former staffer Jacqui Helbert in a lawsuit against the university. Gilbert says that after Helbert was fired, her story was removed from the radio station’s website and her supervisor was instructed to “keep quiet.”
In Gilbert’s words, those actions represent “the opposite of an open public university accountable to the public.”
The internal correspondence released by the school under Tennessee public records laws shows that university leaders feared lawmakers might cut state funding if they didn’t take action against the reporter.
Emails show that university officials who fired a Chattanooga public radio reporter for not identifying herself in sessions with Tennessee lawmakers were worried about losing state funding if they didn’t take action.
According to the emails obtained by The Associated Press under state public records laws, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Chancellor Steven Angle was concerned that not firing reporter Jacqui Helbert would be “gambling with the future” of WUTC-FM.
Angle also called for station news director Michael Miller “to keep quiet and toe the line” on the termination decision.
Helbert had accompanied a group of high school students concerned about the transgender bathroom bill to the state Capitol in Nashville. Republican lawmakers, who control the university’s funding, complained that Helbert hadn’t told them she was recording their comments for broadcast.
National Public Radio criticized the firing.
Corrects news director’s last name to Miller.
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