WTOP dismisses commentator Plotkin after dust-up with colleague

(Astrid Riecken/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST) - Mark Plotkin, left, with WTOP colleagues J.J. Green and Judy Taub in WTOP’s newsroom last year. The commentator, who was at the station for a decade and at WAMU (88.5 FM) before that, has long been known for his passionate advocacy of D.C. voting rights, as well as for his hot temper.

Mark Plotkin, always passionate on the radio, may have been a bit too passionate in his own newsroom.

The longtime political analyst and local radio personality was dismissed by station WTOP on Thursday after berating a fellow station employee, one in a series of blow-ups with colleagues that Plotkin had engaged in over the years, according to co-workers.

Plotkin has been a commentator and political analyst for almost a decade at WTOP (principally heard at 103.5 FM), the region’s most popular station. Before that, he played a similar role at public-broadcaster WAMU (88.5 FM), co-hosting a weekly local politics program that was a platform for Plotkin’s advocacy of voting rights for District residents.

The station’s vice president of news and programming, Jim Farley, said he couldn’t discuss a personnel matter but confirmed that Plotkin’s commentary and analysis will no longer be heard on WTOP. “He’s still a friend and will always be a friend,” Farley said.

Reached Thursday, Plotkin played down his sudden departure from the station. “We just parted ways,” he said. “Things happened along the way, and this was an appropriate time to move on. All I have is good feeling for WTOP.”

He used a Yiddish word, “beshert,” which roughly means “destiny” or “come what may,” to describe the events leading to his ouster.

Colleagues said that Plotkin’s dismissal was a result of his own temper. Several described him as a voluble and loyal co-worker, but one who was quick to anger when he was displeased or on the losing side of a disagreement. During his employment at the station, he engaged in at least a dozen shouting matches with colleagues, precipitating his enrollment in anger-management classes at one point, said one former colleague, who described Plotkin as “a super impatient man.”

WAMU radio host Kojo Nnamdi, who worked with Plotkin on their weekly politics program and has been his friend for more than 30 years, essentially agreed.

“Mark is a package deal,” Nnamdi said Thursday. “You get his remarkable institutional knowledge, the encyclopedia of politics he carries around in his head, his passion for [District] voting rights — and you get a whole lot of attitude. His assets are his defects. They’re inseparable and they’re one and the same.”

Nnamdi said there were similar complaints about Plotkin’s dealings with co-workers when he worked at WAMU. He half-jokingly blamed Plotkin’s clashes at work on his upbringing as an only child.

“I have a skill called ‘managing Mark,’ ” Nnamdi said. “I take half of what he says seriously and the other half I credit to only-child syndrome and look in the other direction. . . . In the final analysis, you realize Mark is a good person who wants to do the right thing. But he has instincts he has just has trouble controlling.”

He said Plotkin had so many spats that he once told Nnamdi that he couldn’t remember why he had stopped speaking to some of his rivals.

Plotkin allowed that when WTOP hired him, “they said, ‘Let Plotkin be Plotkin.’ Well, they got Plotkin. Everyone has limitations and flaws. I do, just like everyone else. I’m not interested in perpetuating anything. People can draw their own conclusions.”

He said he will continue doing commentary for WTTG (Channel 5) and for CTV, the Canadian television network.

“This will hurt me as a peripheral figure here in D.C.,” he joked, “but I’ll still be a major international figure.”

 
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