Local Politics

Radio Host Bumped From Air in Political Dispute

Posted October 29, 2007 6:21 p.m. EDT
Updated October 29, 2007 8:31 p.m. EDT

— A talk radio host involved in an on-air dispute with Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose has lost his job.

George Pope, who hosted a show on WGTM-AM, said he moved to Wilson from Virginia because of his interest in the James Johnson murder case.

Johnson is charged with the June 2004 kidnapping, rape and murder of Brittany Willis. The 17-year-old's body was found in a field near Brentwood Shopping Center in Wilson.

Kenneth Meeks pleaded guilty in April 2006 to killing Willis and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He has said Johnson wasn't involved in the crime, and no DNA evidence from Johnson was found at the scene.

Johnson, who reported the crime to police, was arrested after a witness reported seeing a young blonde with two black men in the field where Willis' body was found. Johnson admitted that he helped Meeks clean fingerprints off of Willis' sport utility vehicle, but he said he thought Meeks still might have had a weapon.

He was held in prison for three years before a judge lowered his bond last month.

After questions were raised about evidence, the state agreed to have a special prosecutor from Forsyth County review the case to determine whether to proceed to trial against Johnson.

Pope has accused Wilson leaders on his talk show of failing to address community issues, especially among African-Americans. He was often critical of Rose, who is white, and Rose said Pope asked listeners during a recent show to show their displeasure with Rose.

"He was advocating that people in the community go pull up my (campaign) signs or deface them in some way. He specifically pointed out (putting) an X across the signs," said Rose, who is running for re-election on the Nov. 6 ballot.

At the Oct. 18 City Council meeting, Pope addressed Rose as the "ex-mayor" and asked for support in removing Rose from office.

WGTM owner Celestine Willis recently removed Pope from his talk show and had to call Wilson County deputies when Pope continued to host his show the following day.

Willis declined to comment on the incident. But she told deputies that Pope had kept a key to the station and got back on the air without permission.

Pope couldn't be reached Monday for comment.

No one has been charged in the defacing of campaign signs.