Garrett McQueen, the only Black classical host at MPR, is fired over programming alterations

His firing has sparked criticism.
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Garrett McQueen, the only Black classical host on Minnesota Public Radio's roster, has been fired.

McQueen, who is the overnight host of American Public Media's (APM - parent company of MPR) round-the-clock program Classical 24, and also hosted Classical MPR's Juneteenth programming, announced he had been fired on his social media pages Thursday.

"I was just fired from American Public Media," tweeted McQueen, who also co-hosts the classical music podcast Trilloquy alongside Classical MPR's Scott Blankenship.

A professional bassoonist by training, McQueen joined MPR/APM in June 2018, and in an interview with MPR News, he said the reason he was fired was because he was "not following programming guidelines."

He told the news outlet that he had been warned twice after switching out music to play more diverse and "appropriate to the moment" pieces, saying: "When things happened in the news or when there were hours of programming that only represented dead white men, I would take it upon myself to change that."

He cited being on the air while the George Floyd protests and subsequent riots were ongoing, and told MPR News he had to ensure his programming "spoke to that."

In a statement issued on Friday though, MPR and APM said it wasn't the choice of music that was the issue, but rather the manner in which the changes were made and the implications it could have for the station's compliance with copyright laws.

His firing has prompted criticism at a time when legacy media organizations are being scrutinized for hiring staff and producing content that is more representative of their audience and region.

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Among those criticizing McQueen's firing is Jeyca Maldonado, a producer who was laid off by MPR during a round of cuts announced in June.

"MPR has a funny way of showing their commitment to diversity and expanding audience," she tweeted. "Truly some tier 1 bullshit."

MPR/APM statement

A full statement from MPR/APM reads as follows:

"Yesterday, American Public Media parted ways with Garrett McQueen.

Our organization’s values guide our decisions, and one of those values calls on us to hold one another accountable for our actions. While we typically do not discuss the details of employee departures, the experience we’ve seen described publicly does not accurately describe what has occurred.

Our decision was not sudden and came after several conversations with Garrett over the past year regarding programming changes. The warnings presented to Garrett were not tied to his choice of music or the reasons for his unauthorized changes to playlists. He was able to make changes to the playlist, but the manner in which he made changes is what caused an issue. We have a process in place for changing playlists, and that process exists to maintain our more than 200 partner stations’ compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and to ensure royalties are properly paid for the music played.

We value Garrett’s work and his distinctive contributions to our shared commitment to increase diversity and inclusion in classical music. And we remain steadfast in pursuing that commitment. Across Classical MPR, 24 percent of the music we play features a composer, conductor or soloist who is a woman and/or a Black person, Indigenous person, or Person of Color. We are committed to increasing this number.

We know that there is still more work needed to further expand our catalog and increase representation in our programming. We are committed to doing this work."

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