Feb 8, 2024 - News

Anti-Latino discrimination claims spark uproar after WLRN host fired

Award-winning journalist Carlos Frias poses with his James Beard Award.

Carlos Frías posing with his James Beard Award. Photo: Nikki Allen/Creative Shot

Allegations that WLRN discriminated against ex-"Sundial" host Carlos Frías touched off a firestorm of criticism days after the radio station abruptly canceled the show and fired three Latino journalists.

Catch up fast: As Axios first reported yesterday, Frías filed a federal discrimination complaint Tuesday asserting that he and his staff experienced discrimination at the radio station, including being told by an editor that the show was "sounding very Latino."

  • Frías, an award-winning Cuban-American journalist, filed a charge of discrimination to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
  • "Sundial" lead producer Leslie Ovalle Atkinson and associate producer Elisa Baena were terminated along with Frías.

The latest: WLRN anchor Catalina Garcia says she quit her job yesterday in solidarity with the "Sundial" team, the Miami Herald reported.

What they're saying: WLRN has not responded to requests for comment on the complaint.

  • But journalists, fans and community members were shocked and angered by the claims against the Miami NPR member station — especially in a county where 66% of households speak Spanish.
  • Cuban-American author Andrew Otazo wrote on X that he was one of the show's "very Latino" guests and suggested a boycott of the station.
  • "He [Carlos] generously gave me space to be unapologetically and proudly Hispanic. If @WLRN has a problem with that, it's high time we remind them they serve a community that is 70% Latino. Quizás es hora de un boicot."

Artist Tony Mendoza, also Cuban-American, wrote in a Facebook comment that the "very disturbing" allegations would make him rethink whether to continue donating to the public radio station.

  • "Still heartbroken that ['Sundial'] was canceled," he wrote. "I think all WLRN members (especially Latinos) should rethink their continued support."

Details: In his EEOC complaint, Frías points to incidents at WLRN that he said preceded his ouster.

  • In August 2023, he said editor Caitie Muñoz told a "Sundial" producer that the show was "sounding very Latino" and created a spreadsheet tracking how many guests on the show were of Latino or Hispanic ethnicity.
  • When Frías asked for clarification, he said vice president of radio Peter Maerz responded that WLRN had to consider people's "cultural comfort zones."
  • Frías said he interpreted that to mean "white people were being made uncomfortable by how diverse our show was (as is our Miami home)."

Of note: Neither Muñoz nor Maerz responded to a request for comment.

What's next: Frías' attorneys tell Axios they plan to sue for wrongful termination.


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