Praise afternoon disc jockey Rhodell Lewis was told to meet with management at 1 p.m. Sept. 1.
“I thought I was getting a bonus, a raise,” he said.
Instead, Praise fired him.
Lewis won’t say what he was fired for, only that it was an “embarrassing” allegation made by a client made against him. He was not able to defend himself, he said. Instead, he said he was speechless by the sudden termination. Program Director Derek Harper led him to his locker to clean out his stuff and escorted him to the elevator. He couldn’t say goodbye to people. For several minutes, he just sat in his car, unable to drive. (Harper declined to comment.)
Two weeks later, Lewis said in an exclusive interview that he’s planning to fight back.
“I was wrongly accused,” he said. “I know right from wrong. I have to fight this. I wasn’t treated properly.” He said he’s hired an attorney to look into filing a wrongful termination suit. He said management produced no documents proving the allegations, that they simply believed the other side without getting his side of the story.
“I want my name cleared even if I don’t get my job back,” he said.
Lewis said he was not under contract like many radio personalities and received no severance pay. He said over his four-plus years at Praise, he asked to be put under contract (which provides some protections he might not otherwise have), but management declined.
Praise regularly finished in the top 5 in overall ratings in metro Atlanta and draws about 700,000 listeners a week, according to Arbitron. It’s the most popular gospel station in the nation. Lewis was the afternoon jock from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Among 25-to-54-year olds, Lewis ranked 8th in August during his final full month of Arbitron measurements.
Lewis said he never received a bad review and would receive bonuses when his ratings exceeded expectations.
Married with two kids, Lewis has been in the radio business for more than 30 years, 23 in Atlanta at various gospel stations. He joined Praise in 2006.
For now, he is going to focus on his year-old production company, which hosts gospel-related events. He may seek a syndicated deal. “I have plans,” he said. “I’m cool. I’m still going to be me. My friends and my listeners know my character.”