Garrison Keillor, most famous as the creator and host of “A Prairie Home Companion” on Minnesota Public Radio, has been fired effectively immediately over “allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him,” according to a statement from the radio network.
Mr. Keillor, 75, said he was fired over “a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version M.P.R. heard,” according to The Associated Press.
Minnesota Public Radio said it would also cut off all business relationships with Mr. Keillor’s media companies, including ending distribution and broadcast of “The Writer’s Almanac” and rebroadcasts of “The Best of A Prairie Home Companion hosted by Garrison Keillor.”
It will also change the name of American Public Media’s weekly music and variety program hosted by Chris Thile, who took over “A Prairie Home Companion” in October 2016, after Mr. Keillor retired.
MPR’s statement reads, in part:
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.
OK, but what did he do? He told the Minneapolis newspaper:
In an email to the Star Tribune Wednesday, Keillor said, “I put my hand on a woman’s bare back. 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.”
Keillor even managed a joke of sorts: “Getting fired is a real distinction in broadcasting and I’ve waited fifty years for the honor. All of my heroes got fired. I only wish it could’ve been for something more heroic.”
Then he turned more serious: “Anyone who ever was around my show can tell you that I was the least physically affectionate person in the building. Actors hug, musicians hug, people were embracing every Saturday night left and right, and I 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. 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.”
If that’s all Keillor did, then he is the victim of a witch-hunt mentality. I was fond of his show back in the day, but not so fond of his political sanctimony. I read his book Homegrown Democrat, and found it to be full of caustic anger. I knew he was a liberal, and anticipated that. What shocked me was the tone. I went in expecting a liberal Will Rogers, and instead got a left-wing Mark Levin. That said, if Keillor’s account of what happened is true, then it appears he was railroaded. But I’ll wait to hear more from the MPR investigators.
It does seem that Keillor’s publishing a Washington Post op-ed defending Sen. Al Franken forced MPR’s hand. Keillor writes in the op-ed:
And then there is Sen. Al Franken. He did USO tours overseas when he was in the comedy biz. He did it from deep in his heart, out of patriotism, and the show he did was broad comedy of a sort that goes back to the Middle Ages. Shakespeare used those jokes now and then, and so did Bob Hope and Joey Heatherton when they entertained the troops. If you thought that Al stood outdoors at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan and told stories about small-town life in the Midwest, you were wrong. On the flight home, in a spirit of low comedy, Al ogled Miss Tweeden and pretended to grab her and a picture was taken. Eleven years later, a talk show host in LA, she goes public, and there is talk of resignation. This is pure absurdity, and the atrocity it leads to is a code of public deadliness. No kidding.
I am inclined to sympathize with this take on the Franken-Tweeden business, and in any case, let me remind you that Franken publicly apologized to her, and she accepted what he said. But there may be more in Franken’s past, I dunno. I just want to say that I don’t get the point of expecting him to resign over the Tweeden thing.
Anyway, if Keillor knew that he was under investigation by MPR for sexual harassment, it was sheer hubris for him to write about this. If they hadn’t told him, then how can they fire him without giving him a chance to defend himself — unless MPR’s investigators had uncovered something solid that was really bad?
Like I said, we’ll have to wait and see. I don’t much care about Matt Lauer, who also went down today over sexual harassment allegations, but Keillor is someone who once meant a lot to me. You never really know what public people are like offstage. One of the reasons I was so shocked by Homegrown Democrat is that I assumed Keillor’s liberalism would be like his public persona. That book is the work of an extremely angry man, a man who is startlingly different in private than in public. Or so it seemed to me at the time.
As the co-host of NBC’s “Today,” Matt Lauer once gave a colleague a sex toy as a present. It included an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her, which left her mortified.
On another day, he summoned a different female employee to his office, and then dropped his pants, showing her his penis. After the employee declined to do anything, visibly shaken, he reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.
He would sometimes quiz female producers about who they’d slept with, offering to trade names. And he loved to engage in a crass quiz game with men and women in the office: “f—, marry, or kill,” in which he would identify the female co-hosts that he’d most like to sleep with.
These accounts of Lauer’s behavior at NBC are the result of a two-month investigation by Variety, with dozens of interviews with current and former staffers. Variety has talked to three women who identified themselves as victims of sexual harassment by Lauer, and their stories have been corroborated by friends or colleagues that they told at the time. They have asked for now to remain unnamed, fearing professional repercussions.