Radio Co-host Alleges She Was Fired for Opposing War in Iraq

By Danielle Gillespie | July 7, 2008 | 8:21pm EDT

( - A South Carolina radio personality who was honored by her peers as the state's top radio personality in 2002, alleges she was fired as a result of expressing her anti-war views on the air and is taking the dispute with her former employer to court.

Roxanne Cordonier, who went by the name Roxanne Walker on the Clear Channel Communications radio affiliate WMYI-FM in Greenville, S.C., was fired April 17, but said her bosses gave her no specific reason for her termination, only that "they were releasing" her.

Just before the war in Iraq, when numerous anti-war and pro-war protests were being conducted, Cordonier claims the atmosphere at her job began to change.

"Prior to the Bush build-up to war, I was an open liberal activist. I was encouraged to air my opinions, I wrote a liberal and continue to write a political column from a liberal slant in a weekly publication which management was aware of, and at the station, they encouraged me to be staunch in my opinions and mix it up with the boys," Cordonier said.

"But during the build-up to war, management began to criticize not only my opinions, but my demeanor," she said.

Cordonier said she was written up twice for misconduct in the workplace, but alleges that prior to the build-up to the war, she had maintained a clean record. The South Carolina Broadcasters Association even named Cordonier the 2002 Radio Personality of the Year.

In her suit filed earlier this month, Cordonier named Bill McMartin, Clear Channel's regional vice president and general manager and Greg McKinney, station program manager, as the defendants. The lawsuit is based on a state statute that prohibits employers from terminating employees for expressing their political views in the workplace.

A spokeswoman for Clear Channel said the company does not comment on pending lawsuits.

According to Clear Channel's website, the company is "committed to recruiting and retaining diverse talent by creating an environment that integrates diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our business."

The company doesn't discriminate based on ethnicity, education, sexual orientation and regional and cultural orientation, and is an Equal Opportunity Employer, according to its website.

But Cordonier said she thinks her termination can be tracked to the financial ties and loyalties that Clear Channel's directors have for President Bush and the Republican Party.

"It's up to a jury to decide, but certainly from the way I was treated and the timing, it would lead me to believe that the company embraced one viewpoint but not the other," Cordonier said.

Clear Channel and individuals associated with the company contributed $209,620 in "soft money" to the Republicans in 2001-2002, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a Washington D.C.-based research group that examines data filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Clear Channel contributed $25,000 to the Democrats during the same political cycle, according to the CRP.

"As a company Clear Channel has a non-partisan philosophy toward political donations. Like most companies, we simply support candidates who take positions that are aligned with the needs of our business and we give to a large number of Democrats as well as Republicans," said a Clear Channel spokeswoman who declined to be identified.

And although the Glenn Beck show's "Rally for America," a pro-war campaign, was aired on several of Clear Channel's stations, the company had no affiliation with the rally, according to Keven Bellows, senior vice president of corporate communications at the Premiere Radio Network, a company owned by Clear Channel.

The first "Rally for America" was aired on a Texas radio station, KLIF, owned by Susquehanna Radio Corporation. Beck, a national talk show host for the Premiere Radio Network, got the idea for the rally from that airing by Susquehanna Broadcasting and not from Clear Channel, Bellows said.

"There is absolutely no connection between the 'Rally for America' and Clear Channel," Bellows said.

But Cordonier alleges that WMYI management required her to participate in pro-war activities without extra pay. The Clear Channel-owned station also had its own local patriotic pro-war rallies, she said.

"I did not have anything to do with the national rally (Beck's 'Rally for America'), but I was mandated to partake in the local political rally here in Greenfield," Cordonier said.

"It's not that I am anti-solider, but some of the things I had to do was play patriotic songs and introduce various soldiers. It was pretty apparent to me that the message was 'rah, rah' we are going to war," she said.

Cordonier added that it will take a year for her lawsuit to go to trial, if it proceeds that far.

"This is the truth; this is what happened," Cordonier alleged. "I never changed the way I was and my opinions didn't change. I am what I am, but their treatment of me did change."

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