Minnesota Public Radio Drops Garrison Keillor Over Allegations of Improper Conduct

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Minnesota Public Radio Drops Garrison Keillor Over Allegations of Improper Conduct


2017-11-29 21:34:05

It will also change the name of American Public Media’s current incarnation of the show, which Chris Thile, a songwriter and mandolinist, took over in October 2016, after Mr. Keillor stepped down.

Jon McTaggart, the president of Minnesota Public Radio, said in a statement that “all of us in the MPR community are saddened by these circumstances.”

He added: “While we appreciate the contributions Garrison has made to M.P.R., and 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.”

Later on Wednesday, The Star Tribune of Minneapolis published an email from Mr. Keillor in response to a reporter’s questions, giving his version of an encounter with an unidentified woman.

“I put my hand on a woman’s bare back,” he wrote. “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.”

Mr. Keillor claimed that they continued to be friends “right up until her lawyer called.”

He insisted his discomfort with physical affection was common knowledge, adding, “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.”

Mr. Keillor is one of many public figures to face consequences after allegations of sexual misconduct in recent weeks. Indeed, just a day earlier, he had come to the defense of his friend and fellow Minnesotan, Senator Al Franken, who is fighting for his political life in the face of accusations of improprieties from four women.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post published on Tuesday evening, Mr. Keillor said calls for the senator’s resignation were “pure absurdity” and dismissed a photograph of the Democrat with his hands on a woman’s chest as something “in a spirit of low comedy.”

The fallout with the network came as Mr. Keillor was slowly receding from the public stage, though he has still been touring, with appearances around the Northeast this week. On Wednesday, he canceled a performance scheduled that night in Pittsfield, Mass.

He originally came up with the idea for his own Americana variety program in 1974 after he traveled to Nashville to write about the Grand Ole Opry for The New Yorker.

“A Prairie Home Companion” became a radio institution, peaking at 4.1 million weekly listeners a decade before he retired, with lucrative live performances and merchandise that included recordings, books and clothes.

Mr. Keillor sang, performed in skits with recurring characters like Guy Noir and ended each show with a monologue about Lake Wobegon, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above-average.”

Famous artists who appeared on his stage included Emmylou Harris, Chet Atkins, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Keb’ Mo’ and Wilco.

He was credited with shaping the early profile of public radio.

“‘Prairie Home Companion’ came on the scene just as public radio was trying to figure out what its identity was,” Ira Glass, the host of “This American Life,” told The New York Times last year. “The fact that here was such a visibly weird, funny, idiosyncratic show opened up the space of other weird, idiosyncratic shows, like ‘Car Talk,’ and our show.”

Mr. Keillor, in his statement on Wednesday, which he also published on his website, said he was “deeply grateful” for all the years appearing on the radio and touring the country.

“It’s some sort of poetic irony to be knocked off the air by a story, having told so many of them myself, but I’m 75 and don’t have any interest in arguing about this,” he said. “And I cannot in conscience bring danger to a great organization I’ve worked hard for since 1969.”

He also apologized to “all the poets whose work I won’t be reading on the radio and sorry for the people who will lose work on account of this.”

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