A Miami radio host says he was fired for having a ‘very Latino’ show

A Miami journalist filed a federal complaint against his radio station this week, claiming that he and his team were let go after a series of discriminatory incidents, including a boss who allegedly said their show was “sounding very Latino.”

Last week, South Florida’s WLRN terminated Carlos Frías and two producers on his team and canceled “Sundial,” a 6-year-old show about local arts and culture that has been replaced with an extra hour of nationally syndicated programming.

The shake-up has caused a wave of upset from the Florida Keys to Miami to Palm Beach — a region where Frías, who is Cuban American, has been a longtime voice in the cultural scene. Some South Florida groups have voiced their opposition to the sunsetting of “Sundial” — including one anchor who reportedly quit the radio station in solidarity with Frías.

Station executives defended the cuts as a necessary trade-off. “The change was made to focus more resources on WLRN’s award-winning newsroom, mainly boosting news stories for daily newscasts and features, along with bolstering the expansion of digital stories,” WLRN’s vice president of news, Sergio Bustos, the station’s daily news and live programming director, Caitie Muñoz, and its vice president of radio, Peter Maerz, said in a statement.

Bustos said no one at the station was able to comment based on advice from legal counsel.

But Frías, who joined as the show’s host in 2022, said the “Sundial” team was let go about a week after he complained to human resources about racial discrimination, according to a filing he made jointly to the Florida Commission on Human Relations and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday.

William Amlong, one of Frías’s attorneys, called WLRN’s actions “abhorrent,” especially considering the large population of Cubans and other Hispanic people that live in Miami-Dade County, as seen in census data.

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Frías alleges that Muñoz told a producer that the show was “sounding very Latino” last August, and made a spreadsheet of the show’s guests that only listed the ethnicity for Hispanic or Latino guests. The producer declined a request for comment, citing the ongoing legal proceedings.

The show has featured several Hispanic and Latino guests, including Puerto Rican artists and Cuban American authors. But Amlong argued that that’s to be expected in an area where Spanish and Spanish-language media is also widespread.

Saying “South Florida culture is too Latino — it’s like saying the Yankees are too much about New York,” the attorney added.

Frías added that when he asked for clarification about the spreadsheet’s ethnicity category, Maerz told him that “we had to be considerate of people’s ‘cultural comfort zones,’ which I understood to mean white people were being made uncomfortable by how diverse our show was (as is our Miami home).”

The former radio host said that multiple people had witnessed or experienced racial discrimination while working for the station. He said Bustos reprimanded him for “airing our dirty laundry” after the host shared on social media an email from a listener who complained of the “macho latin sensibility he subtly brings to the show most days.” Frías added that Bustos fired him, explaining that the company was “going in another direction.”

A day after Frías filed his federal discrimination complaint, Catalina Garcia, another WLRN anchor, quit in solidarity, the Miami Herald reported.

Leslie Ovalle Atkinson, who was part of the laid-off “Sundial” team, said that while the cancellation came without warning, it was heartwarming to receive messages of support from listeners who held the show to high esteem.

“The impact that ‘Sundial’ had too was that we could have these long-form, sit-down conversations with people in the community doing things that our community should know about,” Atkinson said. “Sometimes, the people that we showcase don’t often get that time on air.”

When Frías joined WLRN, he brought along the large fan base and respect he had amassed among South Floridians as an award-winning food editor for the Miami Herald for six years. In 2022, he won the Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award at the James Beard Awards for his coverage at the newspaper.

A Miami native and son of Cuban exiles, he’s also written about his heritage in his memoir, “Take Me with You: A Secret Search for Family in a Forbidden Cuba.” Frías has also been outspoken on the issue of gun violence since his father was shot and killed in 2020.

It’s too early to tell if the complaint will lead to a lawsuit or how involved the government will be in the dispute. Frías’s lawyers say they are waiting to hear WLRN’s side of the story. If the case ends up in court, the attorneys said they’d probably ask for Frías to get his job back with back pay, although it’s unclear if that’s what he wants.

“I don’t know what’s next but I know this: I’ve dedicated my life to storytelling,” Frías wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday. “I know that’s where my next project is. Not sure how or where. But it is my lighthouse.”

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