Robert Knight of WBAI is remembered at memorial | East Villager & Lower East Sider

Robert Knight of WBAI is remembered at memorial

Robert Knight.

Robert Knight.

BY PAUL DERIENZO  |  WBAI news anchor and award-winning reporter Robert Knight, who died a year ago at 64, was honored by more than 100 fans and family members at Riverside Church over the past weekend.

Knight, who hosted “Earthwatch: Terrestrial Radio With Robert Knight” on Wednesday nights for many years on WBAI, was praised for his intelligence and skills at popularizing science and complex political issues. Originally a Jesuit seminarian, he was trained as an electrical engineer.

Knight was born in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. His uncle was a Tuskegee Airman and his mom once dated Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Knight had been laid off as senior correspondent for WBAI when the iconoclastic New York City radio station recently fell on hard times. Financial difficulties forced Pacifica radio, the Berkley-based nonprofit that owns WBAI, to dissolve its news department. Knight continued on as volunteer programmer with a news commentary program called “Five O’Clock Shadow.”

I was a control board operator at WBAI in 1989 when Knight and his longtime friend and partner programmer Dennis Bernstein were co-hosts of “Undercurrents,” a syndicated morning show based at WBAI. The program exposed the Iran-Contra affair and reported on U.S. policymakers’ affinity with mercenaries allied with anti-Communist military forces in Central America. Knight played a major role in covering the Reagan administration’s invasion of Panama in 1989 to depose dictator Manuel Noriega. He was able to track down Noriega by phone. The military strongman had been in hiding from U.S. forces and the interview was broadcast around the world. Knight won the prestigious George Polk Award for his feat.

Robert Knight also traveled the world, and reported from North Korea, Colombia and Nicaragua.

Guests at the memorial included Bernstein, who flew in from Berkeley, California, where he hosts a syndicated show on Pacifica radio station KPFA. David Amram, the musician and composer, sang and played. Civil rights attorney Margaret Ratner, a longtime friend, spoke, as did many of Knight’s friends, who remembered him as a brilliant and beloved man and a consummate broadcasting professional, who knew how to use radio to make people think and connect with the major issues of the day.