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July 08, 2024

Radio host departs WURD after asking President Biden questions supplied by his campaign during an interview

Andrea Lawful-Sanders' conduct 'jeopardized the trust' that the station has built with its audience in Philadelphia, CEO Sara M. Lomax says.

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Joe Biden WURD Max Correa/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; USA TODAY NETWORK

During an interview last week with President Joe Biden, WURD 96.1 host Andrea Lawful-Sanders says she used questions provided by his campaign. She asked him about his debate performance, voter apathy and the achievements he has made for Black Americans.

An interview President Joe Biden did with a Philadelphia radio station has raised concerns about his campaign's communications with journalists – and led to a host's departure.  

WURD 96.1 and host Andrea Lawful-Sanders "mutually agreed to part ways, effective immediately," the station said Sunday. The shake-up stemmed from a July 3 interview that Lawful-Sanders, the host of WURD's "The Source," conducted with Biden. Lawful-Sanders later told CNN that she asked the president questions provided by his campaign team.

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Sara M. Lomax, president and CEO of WURD, said the station's audience trusts it will hold elected officials accountable by maintaining an independent voice. 

"This is something we take very seriously," Lomax said in a statement. "Agreeing to a pre-determined set of questions jeopardizes that trust and is not a practice that WURD Radio engages in or endorses as a matter of practice or official policy."

Pages for "The Source" and Lawful-Sanders have since been scrubbed from WURD's website. Lawful-Sanders did not immediately respond to request for comment.

While Biden's campaign team countered that "it's not at all an uncommon practice for interviewees to share topics they would prefer," a source familiar with the booking operation said staff would no longer offer suggested questions to reporters.

"We do not condition interviews on acceptance of these questions, and hosts are always free to ask the questions they think will best inform their listeners," Lauren Hitt, a spokesperson for the campaign, said in a statement.

Hitt further defended the approved questions Lawful-Sanders asked as "relevant to the news of the day." To open her 14-minute interview, Lawful-Sanders asked Biden about his much-criticized June 27 debate performance against Donald Trump. The president had spoken softly and frequently stumbled over his words, sparking concerns within the Democratic Party over his readiness for the job.

"I had a bad debate," Biden told Lawful-Sanders. "But 90 minutes on stage does not erase what I've done for 3 1/2 years."

Lawful-Sanders also asked the president about voter apathy and victories he had achieved for Black Americans. WURD bills itself as Pennsylvania's only independent Black-owned talk radio station.

Lawful-Sanders, who joined the station in 2019, is not the only journalist who used pre-approved questions from the Biden campaign. Wisconsin radio host Earl Ingram told ABC News that he was also given five questions ahead of his interview with the president, and ultimately asked four of them. 

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