NES Response to Fair Elections Complaint Filed 7-11-2019 WBAI

The complainant requests anonymity. The complainant cites the original campaign statement of a WBAI staff candidate Vajra Kilgour and states that content in the campaign statement is slanderous and libelous towards other candidates and individuals, naming specifically Shawn Rhodes, R. Paul Martin and Reggie Johnson, none of whom are WBAI candidates in the 2019 election cycle.

Kilgours original statement: I’m a longtime housing activist and the associate producer of Housing Notebook. After serving in the 2000s, I’ve been back on the Local Station Board since December 2015, when another staff member was term-limited. During 2016, the group that has held power on the LSB and at Pacifica for the past 10-plus years boycotted meetings because they did not have a majority. This included staff representatives Reggie Johnson, R. Paul Martin, and Shawn Rhodes. The latter two were reelected to the board in March. Despite the boycott, but with a harmonious and hardworking group at meetings, and utilizing the Robert’s Rules provision that permits conducting business in an emergency, several initiatives that the former board majority had stymied for years – including a management evaluation and a far-reaching fundraising plan they had refused even to submit to the PNB as required – began to move forward. When they returned to the majority in 2017 after yet another deceitful campaign, the opposition voted to nullify all our work, and has still, a year and a half later, performed no management evaluation or implemented any fundraising plan. What they have done is to shamelessly misrepresent a proposal for a partnership with MNN. What that partnership would NOT entail is the sale or lease of the station. What a negotiated contract would give us: access to state-of-the-art equipment, a TV channel, and producer support, training, and opportunities to collaborate. If we do not put aside personal ambitions and power issues, and all pull together to reverse WBAI’s dire financial situation, we may soon have nothing left to fight over. We must be extremely vigilant about preventing ANYONE from attempting to sell or swap our signal, and be especially wary of people who attribute to other people their own documented suggestions to do so.

Regardless of where our studio is, we deserve reasonable processes for preemptions, program changes, and cancellations. Programs that speak to the incredibly diverse populations of the New York area have been replaced with programs aimed at a shrinking number of demographics, apparently in the misguided belief that it would help our bottom line. It hasn’t. The endless fund drives with their over-reliance on “health” hucksters are driving listeners away and destroying the station’s reputation as a serious source of information. A constructive LSB can use the bylaws to require accountability. Choose representatives for whom self-aggrandizement is not more important than actually working for the benefit of the station.

Basir Mchawi, of “Education at the Crossroads,” is also running as a staff candidate. Basir has a wealth of radio and event-organizing experience, and has been a dedicated member of the LSB since March. Please rank Basir #1 and me #2 on your ballot. You can reach me at

Discussion: The bolded language is, arguably, what might meet the standard of libelous or slanderous language. In the first instance, the candidate mentions three individuals, but none of them are candidates for the LSB in the 2019 election cycle, which excludes the language from the cited rule. The second reference refers to a “deceitful campaign” for the 2017 local board, which was the 2016 election cycle, not the current one and therefore has no applicability to the current election underway. The third reference arguably is a statement that for Kilgour’s opposition, who she mentions only by omission but consist of 2019 staff candidates Jack Devine and Amy Wilson, “self-aggrandizement is more important than actually working for the benefit of the station”. This seems a somewhat unsupported allegation since both are new candidates who have never been on the local station board and to constitute some sort of slur by association, which does not seem justified by the text that comes before it referring to the actions of other people in other years. Accordingly, we have asked Ms. Kilgour to revise her statement and she has done so. 

RULING: Campaign statement by Vajra Kilgour to be revised. Statement has been voluntarily revised so this complaint has been amicably resolved.