Garrison Keillor was not fired from Minnesota Public Radio merely for patting a grieving female colleague on the back, says MPR president Jon McTaggart. In a lengthy note to MPR members and listeners, detailing incidents of sexually inappropriate behavior, McTaggart struck back at Keillor’s supporters who have suggested that the Prairie Home Companion host was some sort of victim of a MeToo witch hunt mentality.
For starters, McTaggart writes that the woman, who worked for Keillor on A Prairie Home Companion, “did not allege that Garrison touched her back, but did claim that he engaged in other unwanted sexual touching.
“In a letter to MPR dated October 22, 2017, the woman’s attorney described dozens of sexually inappropriate incidents directed at her client over a period of years. In fact, the woman’s attorney presented us with a 12-page letter detailing many of the alleged incidents, including excerpts of emails and written messages, requests for sexual contact and explicit descriptions of sexual communications and touching.”
In addition to McTaggart’s note yesterday, MPR News published the results of its own investigation into Keillor’s behavior, reporting, among other things, that the popular radio personality had attempted to pay a female subordinate $16,000 in hush money over an affair the two were having. (The woman did not cash the check or sign the confidentiality agreement.)
Other findings alleged in the MPR News report:
• In 2012, Keillor wrote and publicly posted in his bookstore an off-color limerick about a young woman who worked there and the effect she had on his state of arousal.
• A producer fired from The Writer’s Almanac in 1998 sued MPR, alleging age and sex discrimination. She said Keillor habitually bullied and humiliated her and ultimately replaced her with a younger woman.
• A 21-year-old college student received an email in 2001 in which Keillor, then her writing instructor at the University of Minnesota, revealed his “intense attraction” to her.
The allegations provide a stark contrast to Keillor’s public comments. In a statement to Minnesota’s Star Tribune in November after his firing, the 75-year-old Keillor wrote, “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’s explanation has occasionally been used as evidence that the MeToo and Time’s Up movements have somehow gotten out of hand or become reckless. Actor Liam Neeson recently told Irish broadcaster RTE that Hollywood’s harassment reckoning has become “a bit of a witch hunt” and used Keillor’s back-patting explanation as an example.
The following are excerpts from McTaggart’s note:
“Ending our contracts with Garrison was a painful decision, one that we did not make lightly. We acted with the support of our Board of Trustees following an extended, independent, fact-finding investigation that included notifying Garrison of the allegations and giving him an opportunity to respond to them. We are confident of the facts that informed our decision and we stand by it.”
“MPR’s process was deliberate, diligent and included Garrison. Due process means providing notice of the allegations and an opportunity to respond to them. Garrison was informed of the allegations and he responded to them with his attorney present before we made the decision to end our relationship with his companies.”
“MPR’s attorneys had several conversations with Garrison’s attorneys seeking access to his emails and phone texts. Before the decision to end our relationship was made, Garrison and his attorneys were asked multiple times for access to Garrison’s computer, emails and text messages to assist in the investigation. To date, all requests to review Garrison’s emails and texts related to this matter have been refused by Garrison or his attorneys.”
“The woman who has made the allegations has not publicly identified herself, and has not made her allegations public. Garrison has also chosen not to make the specific allegations public. We respect their decisions. That said, we are confident that MPR’s diligent process, our commitment to making decisions based on the facts, and the care we’ve taken as we considered this momentous decision all support our action.”
“MPR has received two formal complaints, both making allegations about Garrison’s behavior in the workplace. One of the individuals is a woman who claims Garrison’s behavior was directed at her, and the other individual claims to know about some of the alleged behavior.”