Lena Taylor’s Aide Suspended by WNOV
Michele Bryant accuses station’s owner of selling out to Mayor Barrett.
“I was just informed by station management at the directive of Jerrel Jones, the owner of the station… that I had been suspended from the station for two weeks because I talked about the failings of [Mayor] Tom Barrett’s leadership,” Bryant said. “I was told I was going against the directive of the owner to stop talking about Tom Barrett on the show… I got calls constantly to stop talking about Tom Barrett so much.”
Patrick Guarasci, Barrett’s campaign advisor, disputes this, noting that the radio handled Taylor the same way when she was on the air to discuss her mayoral campaign. “What we didn’t get was two to four hours a day on the air by her campaign manager,” he notes. “That’s almost unheard of and its absolutely a campaign violation.”
Bryant did not respond to questions from Urban Milwaukee, but in the past she has denied she was campaign manager. Still there is little doubt she has been helping Taylor’s mayoral campaign in her role as radio host, where she was host of two different shows. In her Facebook talk Bryant noted she was frequently discussing the campaign and criticizing Barrett.
As for the money Barrett spent on advertising on WNOV, Guarasci noted that the campaign spent money for ads with a long list of local media, including the Milwaukee Courier (also owned by Jones), the Milwaukee Community Journal (which also has black ownership) and other radio stations. “We could be accused of not advertising in the black community if we hadn’t done that,” he notes. (Full disclosure: the Barrett campaign also advertised with Urban Milwaukee.)
Bryant also accused Jones of supporting Barrett for mayor. Guarasci, however, says Jones has never endorsed Barrett nor contributed financially to his candidacy. Jones, long a businessman and formidable figure in local politics, did not respond to Urban Milwaukee’s call for comment.
Bryant became a controversial figure after she did a number of shows blasting the deal for Strauss Brands, which would have brought hundreds of jobs to the central city. Her shows helped generate a flood of negative emails to Ald. Khalif Rainey, in whose district the meat-packing plant was located. Rainey backed away from supporting the deal and Strauss then announced it would withdraw its offer to the city.
The fact that Bryant was a full-time legislative aide while also doing two talk shows promoting Taylor’s candidacy has also raised eyebrows in political circles. The situation, one Capitol veteran suggested in a past story by Urban Milwaukee, is reminiscent of what Kelly Rindfleisch was doing for then-County Executive Scott Walker. Rindfleisch was sentenced to six months in jail and three years probation for doing campaign work on county time.
Rindfleisch was doing her campaign work during the day, during hours she was being paid by taxpayers to conduct county business. Bryant was doing radio shows during daytime hours when legislative aides normally work, and the the show helped promote the campaign of her boss Lena Taylor.
In her Facebook talk, Bryant says she was paid $10 per hour as a radio host, but does not intend to return to WNOV after her suspension ends. “I got a job, a full-time job,” she noted. “I won’t be coming back.”
Bryant’s suspension was first reported by KINGFISHmke.com, an emailed newsletter that frequently criticizes Barrett and black elected officials who support him.
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