April 12, 1997 in City

Talk Show Host Accuses Radio Station Of Firing Him Because He’s Gay Wrongful Discharge, Defamation Alleged In Lawsuit Against Kwrm

Associated Press

A radio talk show host on Friday sued his former employer, accusing the Seattle station of firing him for being gay.

In his King County Superior Court lawsuit, Michael Webb contends he was fired from KWRM, where he worked for nearly two years, because of his sexual orientation.

Webb was public affairs director, in charge of a Sunday morning community interest program.

“I never wanted to be known as a gay talk show host,” Webb said. “It has always been my intention to be known as Mike Webb, the radio personality who happens to be gay.”

Webb, 41, who now hosts a weekend talk show for KIRO radio in Seattle, is suing KWRM’s previous owners, Puget Sound Broadcasting Co., and its current owners, Sandusky Newspapers Inc., alleging wrongful discharge and defamation. He said his reputation as an unbiased journalist was called into question.

Webb said that last summer, the program director at KWRM asked him why 60 percent of his programming had a “gay theme.” Webb said he replied that of 55 programs, only six could fall under that category. Webb said he was fired a week after that meeting.

“This was all about my objectivity,” said Webb, who has been working in radio since he was 14.

Among the shows said to have a gay content was “Women with HIV,” according to a May 19, 1996, letter to Webb’s attorney, LeAnn McDonald, from Karen Sutherland, the lawyer for Puget Sound Broadcasting, which owned KWRM at the time.

Sutherland said Friday she was unaware of Webb’s lawsuit and refused comment.

On July 18, two days after Webb was fired, Sandusky Newspapers Inc. made arrangements to buy KWRM.

Webb had previously worked at - and been fired from - KIXI, a Bellevue station owned by Sandusky.

When he was terminated from that station in 1994, Webb said a confidential agreement was reached under which the company couldn’t provide any information about him except for a letter of recommendation.

However, a Sept. 6, 1996, letter from Sutherland to McDonald says KWRM’s general manager met with representatives of Sandusky and talked about eliminating positions before they entered into a sales agreement.

“Sandusky decided that there were two positions that could be eliminated immediately,” one of which was Webb’s, the letter says.

Webb’s lawsuit alleges Sandusky breached its written agreement.

Webb in November asked for $150,000 from Puget Sound Broadcasting. He said the next month, the company offered him $10,000, which he declined.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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