Garrison Keillor Was Fired for More Than 'Just Touching a Bare Back'

January 25th, 2018 7:14 PM

Just when it seemed that the ongoing sexual misconduct scandals involving dozens of men in Hollywood, the Democratic Party. and the government had finally run its course, Minnesota Public Radio President Jon McTaggart released a statement on Wednesday to counter accusations made by Garrison Keillor, the long-time host of the popular program A Prairie Home Companion.

For several weeks, Keillor had claimed the reason he was fired was that he had touched “a woman’s bare back,” which he said he did to console the female employee, and it gave many fans the false hope that he might return to the airwaves.

Those hopes were dashed when McTaggart's letter listed the reasons for Keillor’s firing, which included “excerpts of emails and written messages, requests for sexual contact and explicit descriptions of sexual communications and touching."

According to an article written by The Washington Post's Abby Ohlheiser, Keillor said that he was surprised to hear the allegations because he had apologized to the woman soon after, that they had already made up.”

McTaggart stated that he would not disclose the identity of the accuser but noted:

In the allegations she provided to MPR, she did not allege that Garrison touched her back but did claim that he engaged in other unwanted sexual touching.

Also, the woman’s attorney presented us a 12-page letter detailing many of the alleged incidents, [which described] a years-long pattern of behavior that left several women who worked for Keillor feeling mistreated, sexualized or belittled.

In an email Keillor sent to Ohlheiser on Tuesday, he denied the accusations and stated: “There is simply no story here.”

“The woman and I were friends from before her employment to the end of it,” he added. “We exchanged scores of emails about our children, travels, ordinary lives, and she signed many of hers ‘I love you.’”

“When I retired,” he noted, “she asked for a job recommendation, and I wrote a big, booming one for her, and she got the job.”

“In response to a question about his initial decision to say he was fired for touching a woman’s bare back, which at this point MPR has denied,” he said: “My touching her bare shoulder once was the only physical contact between her and me that could be considered harassing.”

Keillor didn’t help his case when he was able to describe specific details of the incident.

The woman was wearing “a blue blouse, split up the back, and I put my hand on her back to reassure her that her work was okay, and my hand slid up inside the blouse a few inches and touched her bare shoulder. I apologized for this in an email, and she said: ‘I forgave you for that, don’t think about it.’”

However, the radio celebrity had some accusations of his own:

What is interesting to me is the fact that, back in October when the complaint was made, the president of MPR, where I’ve worked for almost 50 years, did not call me up and ask me to sit down and talk about this.

They were never interested in hearing my story. Instead of calling me, they called in a troupe of lawyers, and that’s why we are where we are.

“Separately from the statement by the organization’s management,” Ohlheiser noted, “journalists at MPR News published a lengthy article on Tuesday, based on interviews with more than 60 people who worked with Keillor in some capacity, that outlined what it was allegedly like for women to work for him.”

“For instance,” the article stated: “MPR News reported that 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’ in 2012.”

“Others described a ‘harmful’ power dynamic in Keillor’s consensual relationships with women who worked with him,” the article indicated.

According to Ohlheiser, Minnesota Public Radio’s “investigators looked into ‘dozens’ of allegations of ‘sexually inappropriate incidents.’”

“Ending our contracts with Garrison was a painful decision, “ McTaggart also noted, “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,” he added. “We are confident of the facts that informed our decision, and we stand by it.”

As NewsBusters previously reported, Keillor’s defense of fellow Democrat Al Franken was “poetic irony of a high order."

"But I’m just fine," Keillor noted. "I had a good long run and am grateful for it and for everything else.”