Garrison Keillor Fired for Alleged Improper Behavior

Garrison Keillor, the former host of the weekly radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” has been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over alleged improper behavior.

In a statement, MPR said it would stop distributing “The Writer’s Almanac,” a daily, five-minute show featuring poetry and literary anecdotes. It will also change the name of “A Prairie Home Companion,” now hosted by Chris Thile, and cease rebroadcasts of shows hosted by Keillor.

Keillor told the Associated Press on Wednesday that he was ousted over “a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.” He elaborated in an email to Minneapolis’ Star-Tribune, in which the 75-year-old acknowledged that he had touched a woman’s “bare back.”

“I put my hand on a woman’s bare back,” he told the paper. “I meant to pat her back after she told me about her unhappiness and her shirt was open and my hand went up it about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized. I sent her an email of apology later and she replied that she had forgiven me and not to think about it. We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called.”

In a separate email to MPR News, Keillor said two employees made allegations against him, but he did not describe the nature of the second complaint.

Keillor described himself to the Star-Tribune as “the least physically affectionate person” on his radio show, and said while others would hug at the end of a broadcast, he “stood off in the corner like a stone statue.”

“If I had a dollar for every woman who asked to take a selfie with me and who slipped an arm around me and let it drift down below the beltline, I’d have at least a hundred dollars,” he told the paper. “So this is poetic irony of a high order. But I’m just fine. I had a good long run and am grateful for it and for everything else.”

In its statement, MPR said it learned last month of an allegation regarding behavior that occurred while Keillor was the host of “A Prairie Home Companion.” Keillor retired from the show in 2016. The station hired outside counsel to conduct an investigation, which is ongoing.

Jon McTaggart, the president of MPR, said in the statement that he decided to sever all ties with Keillor’s companies.

“While we appreciate the contributions Garrison has made to MPR and to all of public radio, we believe this decision is the right thing to do and is necessary to continue to earn the trust of our audiences, employees, and supporters of our public service,” McTaggart said.

Keillor is also an author and frequent political commentator. In an op-ed in the Washington Post on Tuesday, Keillor defended Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who has come under pressure to resign amid charges that he groped several women.

“This is pure absurdity, and the atrocity it leads to is a code of public deadliness,” Keillor wrote.

In the email to MPR News, Keillor said the country is experiencing a “mania” of harassment claims.

“I have my own recollection of events, but I don’t want to take issue with Jon McTaggart’s decision,” he wrote. “I think the country is in the grip of a mania — the whole Franken business is an absurdity — and I wish someone who resist it (sic), but I expect MPR to look out for itself, and meanwhile, I feel awfully lucky to have hung on for so long.”

Keillor launched the Saturday-evening variety show in 1974. It became a hit for MPR’s parent company, American Public Media, which distributes the show and others, such as “Marketplace,” to local public radio stations around the country. At the time of Keillor’s retirement last year, about 3.1 million people listened to the show on 670 stations. The audience has since shrunk to about 2 million, with 586 stations carrying the broadcast with Thile as host.

“The Writer’s Almanac” aired on nearly 400 stations.

Read MPR’s full statement below.

“Last month, MPR was notified of the allegations which relate to Mr. Keillor’s conduct while he was responsible for the production of A Prairie Home Companion (APHC). MPR President Jon McTaggart immediately informed the MPR Board Chair, and a special Board committee was appointed to provide oversight and ongoing counsel. In addition, MPR retained an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations. Based on what we currently know, there are no similar allegations involving other staff. The attorney leading the independent investigation has been conducting interviews and reviewing documents, and the investigation is still ongoing. We encourage anyone with additional information to call our confidential hotline 1-877-767-7781.

MPR takes these allegations seriously and we are committed to maintaining a safe, respectful and supportive work environment for all employees and everyone associated with MPR. We want a workplace where anyone who experiences unwanted behavior feels comfortable in reporting concerns to MPR. Discrimination, harassment, retaliation or other inappropriate behaviors will not be tolerated.

MPR will end its business relationships with Mr. Keillor’s media companies effective immediately. By terminating the contracts, MPR and American Public Media (APM) will:

* end distribution and broadcast of The Writer’s Almanac and rebroadcasts of The Best of A Prairie Home Companion hosted by Garrison Keillor;

* change the name of APM’s weekly music and variety program hosted by Chris Thile; and,

* separate from the Pretty Good Goods online catalog and the PrairieHome.org website.

MPR and APM will work closely with public radio stations to help make the programming transitions as seamless as possible. “Garrison Keillor has been an important part of the growth and success of MPR, and all of us in the MPR community are saddened by these circumstances,” said Jon McTaggart, President of MPR. “While we appreciate the contributions Garrison has made to MPR and to all of public radio, we believe this decision is the right thing to do and is necessary to continue to earn the trust of our audiences, employees and supporters of our public service.” “Over the last several weeks, the special Board Committee has worked closely with MPR President Jon McTaggart and legal counsel to review the facts as we know them and carefully consider the implications of the various options,” said David Murphy, Chair of the MPR Board of Trustees. “The Board Committee concluded that terminating the Keillor relationships was the appropriate decision and the Board and Jon are aligned in this action. Fortunately, MPR is one of the strongest public broadcasting organizations in the country. We are confident MPR will continue to innovate with programming and content that ensures MPR will remain one of the most valued sources of news, information and entertainment for decades to come.”

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