Garrison Keillor, the long-time host of the seminal public radio variety show A Prairie Home Companion, was fired Wednesday by Minnesota Public Radio (MPR).
A statement from MPR cites “allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him” for the firing, adding, “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.”
MPR will change the name of A Prairie Home Companion and cease rebroadcasts of the entire back catalog of Keillor’s content.
No further details of the allegations were initially forthcoming, but Keillor later sent a letter to Minnesota’s Star Tribune giving his account of the incident in question. It reads:
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.
The radio host continued with an attempt at humor, “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,” and then he explained himself:
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.
The firing came only hours after Keillor’s op-ed defending fellow Minnesotan Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) hit the pages of the Washington Post. Franken has been under increasing pressure to resign his seat after a photograph emerged of him appearing to grab the chest of Leeann Tweeden, then an FHM model with whom he was doing a USO tour in Afghanistan. Tweeden, now a Los Angeles television host, accused Franken of contriving a comedy scene so he could kiss her during a rehearsal.
Two women later came forward to say Franken grabbed their buttocks as he posed with photos of them at public events in Minnesota. One, Lindsay Menz, claims this happened in 2010 while Franken was already a U.S. senator. The other, who wished to remain anonymous, claims he also solicited her for sex after doing so at a 2008 campaign event.
In his op-ed, Keillor argues we ought not judge past actions by present standards. He says of Franken’s scandal:
Miss Tweeden knew what the game was and played her role and on the flight home, in a spirit of low comedy, Al ogled her and pretended to grab her and a picture was taken. Eleven years later, a talk show host in L.A., she goes public with her embarrassment, and there is talk of resignation. This is pure absurdity and the atrocity it leads to is a code of public deadliness. No kidding.
Keillor, in the same piece, did not hold back from attacking President Donald Trump over his past actions. “The playboy blather, the smirk of privilege, the stunning contempt for factual truth — how can the country come together when the president has nothing in common with 98 percent of the rest of us?” he writes.
Keillor hosted A Prairie Home Companion for more than 40 years, concluding a farewell tour last year. In syndication across North America, his musing on Midwestern American life and deadpan sense of humor became a staple for public radio listeners. He has also written dozens of books and is a frequent contributor to mainstream news magazines and websites like Salon.
The lost of Keillor will be the third casualty of the public radio world in the flood of sexual misconduct allegations spilling forth across the media and other high-profile industries. Two high-level National Public Radio News executives were forced to resign over the last month.