Caribbean-Born Host Resigns from WURD Following Controversial Biden Interview

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

News Americas, PHILADELPHIA, PA, July 8, 2024: Caribbean immigrant radio host Andrea Lawful-Sanders is speaking out following her resignation from Philadelphia radio station WURD. The station stated that her interview with President Biden did not meet its journalistic standards and that her departure was a mutual decision.

Andrea Lawful-Sanders, a Jamaican-born radio host, resigns from WURD after a controversial interview with President Biden, sparking discussions on journalistic integrity.

WURD, known for its significant Black listenership, parted ways with Lawful-Sanders after she conducted an interview with President Biden using questions provided by the Biden campaign. The station emphasized that this practice compromised its journalistic independence. The Jamaican born Lawful-Sanders hosted “The Source” on WURD 96.1 FM and conducted the first interview with Biden following his disastrous debate performance on CNN.

WURD reiterated that the interview violated its standards, stating, “agreeing to a predetermined set of questions jeopardizes our listeners’ trust.” Despite this, they initially promoted the interview across their platforms. Lawful-Sanders, however, maintained that her approach was transparent and aligned with industry practices, emphasizing her dedication to serving the community with integrity.

This incident has sparked a broader discussion about journalistic independence and the ethical considerations surrounding pre-approved questions in media interviews.

Lawful-Sanders has since taken to Facebook and issued the following statement:

“When I was first asked to come to WURD Radio, it was not because I am a journalist. I am not. It was not because I was a seasoned radio show host. I was not. The call came because my work and reputation as a trusted educational consultant, leadership empowerment coach, student advocate, author, and public speaker described me. I arrived at WURD with one intention: Serve the Greater Philadelphia region truthfully, transparently, and most importantly, with love. Listeners saw and felt this, and as a result, opportunities at and beyond WURD expanded.

Since I arrived at WURD Radio in October 2019, I have hosted and moderated countless events, including community broadcasts, industry events, and a debate for our most recent mayoral election, which saw Philadelphia welcome its first Black and woman mayor. In this role, I have had the great honor of amplifying the voices and concerns of the Black community (including Black journalists) while centering our challenges and successes. This is why Black media matters: You don’t have to be a journalist to tell or amplify the stories of your people. You must, however, be transparent, empowered, and of pure heart to serve your community.

On July 2, 2024, I received a call from the White House communications team inviting me to speak with President Biden. As an independent contractor for WURD, it has been a standard practice to book my interviews and develop questions for my guests without knowledge, consultation, or collaboration from station management. Upon accepting the invitation, I began working with the team regarding suggested topics to be discussed. Throughout my communications with the White House communications team, there was never any guarantee that the interview would be aired on WURD as they contacted me directly and, to my knowledge, not the station. Regarding the suggested questions selected for the interview, I was clear with the White House communications team about the topics most important to our listeners, rejecting any that did not address them. They respected my notes, question edits, and license to change, add or ignore their suggested questions. I cannot stress enough that it is not uncommon for high-profile people to submit suggested questions. We can choose to reject or use them – or to be inspired to include relevant questions based on an intimate understanding of our audience. However, I appreciate how this has allowed stakeholders in the media to revisit this industry-wide practice.

The station manager learned of the interview from the White House briefing room shortly before it was conducted. Once the interview was completed via a Zoom audio call, the station was provided the recording for WURD’s review. They decided to run my conversation with President Biden, marketing and promoting across their social media platforms on July 4th. The station also did the same for my appearances on CNN.

There is no world where I would attempt to deceive my community, marginalize the lived experiences of listeners, or minimize the profound respect I have for Black journalists and Black media. Not simply because of WURD’s reputation, but because that is not what I represent at my core. It is not who I am. This is precisely why I was transparent in my appearances on CNN about the interview process and our conversation.

As someone deeply committed to integrity, fairness, and empowering Black voices, I believe it is essential to uphold these values consistently and rigorously. My commitment to these principles remains unwavering.

The decision to resign from WURD was not easy. I appreciate that my resignation was accepted and I am excited to continue serving my community however God would allow. My gifts made room for me to be at WURD, I can only imagine where and how they’ll enable me to serve next.

I want to express my deepest gratitude to my WURD Radio colleagues, listeners, and supporters who have been on this journey with me. Together we have celebrated milestones, tackled important issues, and uplifted our community.

Moving forward, I will continue advocating for equitable representation, empowering our current and future community leaders, and using my platform to amplify the voices of others with authenticity and transparency. I recognize that the media landscape is vast and dynamic. Remaining informed about emerging trends, technologies, professional development opportunities, and ethical practices is essential to my growth as a responsible and impactful storyteller. Therefore my evolution as a community storyteller who values solutions-focused journalism will continue.

The Black vote matters and the United States of America knows this. Black voices matter. And therefore we must prioritize the support and funding of Black-owned platforms that center us. I encourage everyone to continue supporting platforms that prioritize our community and its needs.

As we prepare to determine our country’s future, I sincerely hope that this experience ultimately serves the greater good.

I am not a journalist. I was once a radio show host. Every single day, though, I am a Black woman in America. And because of that and that alone, I will rise to every occasion to serve and advocate for my community with integrity, transparency, and a pure heart.

Thank you for your attention and understanding, and for the outpouring of love and support given to me during this time. I look forward to the next steps in service to my community.”

A Biden campaign spokesperson on Saturday did not deny the campaign provided questions, but said, “We do not condition interviews on acceptance of these questions.”

“It’s not at all an uncommon practice for interviewees to share topics they would prefer. These questions were relevant to the news of the day — the president was asked about this debate performance as well as what he’d delivered for black Americans,” spokesperson Lauren Hitt said in a statement.

The Biden campaign said later Saturday it will no longer suggest questions to interviewers.

“While interview hosts have always been free to ask whatever questions they please, moving forward we will refrain from offering suggested questions,” a source familiar with the Biden booking operation told CNN.

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