Garrison Keillor firing prompts backlash from his fans
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Outraged Garrison Keillor fans deluged Minnesota Public Radio Thursday with complaints about the firing of the humorist over alleged workplace misconduct.
Some say they will no longer support MPR, one of the nation’s largest public radio operations, which depends heavily on financial contributions.
MPR said Wednesday it was cutting ties with Keillor, creator and former host of the popular public radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” over an allegation of workplace misconduct. The network did not give details, but Keillor told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he had put his hand on a woman’s bare back while trying to console her.
On Thursday, MPR repeated that it had received just one formal complaint against Keillor, a day after a statement by him raised questions about the extent of the allegations.
Keillor told MPR’s news department in an email that two employees had made allegations. MPR spokeswoman Angie Andresen, asked to clear up the discrepancy, said the network has “a formal complaint from an individual that includes multiple allegations related to Garrison’s behavior.”
Keillor told The Associated Press in an email Thursday evening that one person had brought a claim against MPR and one person had brought a claim against him. He says he hasn’t seen the allegations against him and that his account to the Star Tribune was the only incident he could remember.
Andresen appeared to dispute any claim against MPR in an emailed response, saying: “We have complaints from two individuals formerly associated with A Prairie Home Companion. Both allege inappropriate behavior by Mr. Keillor. Only one claims the behavior was directed at her.” She didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking further clarification.
Meanwhile, MPR News reported that many people were angered at Keillor’s dismissal and dozens planned to cancel their memberships.
Bridget George of Anoka says she wants a fuller explanation from the network. She said Keillor spoke at a fundraiser at her church last year and is a “kind, caring, compassionate person.”
“I think a lot of politics go into these decisions,” George said. “I would be curious to know what other things were going on that might have motivated the board to take that action.”
More than 400 people had expressed themselves through MPR’s Public Insight Network within 24 hours of the news breaking. Discussions on the MPR News Facebook page had generated more than 25,000 words, enough to fill a 100-page book.
“We understand that some listeners are upset and know that the limited information we’ve made available at this time may not seem to justify such a consequential decision,” said Angie Andresen, a spokeswoman for MPR and APM. “We want to assure that this decision honors the highest standards they’ve come to expect from us.”
While many fans supported Keillor, the professional fallout for the popular radio personality continued on Thursday.
The Washington Post said it won’t distribute any more columns by Keillor because he didn’t reveal he was under investigation in his most recent column. Keillor’s last column criticized calls for Minnesota U.S. Sen. Al Franken to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct.
Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said Keillor’s column failed a basic transparency test. The Post had syndicated Keillor’s column after his retirement from “A Prairie Home Companion.”
According to its 2016 financial report, St. Paul-based MPR and its parent company, American Public Media, received 63 percent of its revenue that fiscal year from the public. Of that public support, $21 million was from individual gifts and memberships.
Keillor was on an East Coast tour through Sunday with the folk duo Robin and Linda Williams. But the remaining shows in Connecticut and New York state were canceled, according to websites for those theaters. Keillor also was set to appear Wednesday night at a theater in western Massachusetts, but that show was canceled after news broke of his dismissal by MPR.
MPR has said it received allegations of “inappropriate behavior” against Keillor last month involving one person who worked with him during his time hosting “Prairie Home.” MPR did not elaborate on the allegation.
Keillor told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he meant to pat the woman on the back but, “her shirt was open and my hand went up it about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized,” Keillor said. “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 retired as host of the radio variety show last year, but the Saturday evening show continues with mandolinist Chris Thile as host.
MPR said it would rename the show and end distribution of “The Writer’s Almanac,” Keillor’s daily reading of a poem and telling of literary events. MPR also plans to end rebroadcasts of “The Best of A Prairie Home Companion” hosted by Keillor.