Minnesotans confess ‘very turbulent feelings’ over allegations against Garrison Keillor
The mythical Lake Wobegon may be in central Minnesota, but everyone knows it has a lot of Anoka in it.
And in Garrison Keillors hometown, news of his abrupt firing Wednesday over sexual harassment charges was stirring up very turbulent feelings, as one resident put it.
He was always one of those people we pointed to with pride, said Patricia Joy, who was five years behind Keillor in high school. As word of his sudden dismissal spread, Joy said, I started getting e-mails and texts from family members, saying, Oh, no not Garrison!
These were people you looked up to and respected, added Joy, citing Keillor as well as Today host Matt Lauer and a growing list of powerful men felled by harassment charges. Were all like, whos next?
Across the caf table, Joys mother, 91-year-old Earline Martin, shook her head in disgust.
These men, theyre something else, she said. And what about President Trump? she asked, referring to multiple charges of sexual harassment that the president has denied.
At Billys Bar Grill, the mostly middle-aged male patrons were more understanding of Keillors plight. The outpouring of harassment stories from women has left them feeling as if long-held patterns of behavior are being suddenly upended.
Im not taking all this at face value from these gals, said Anthony Gerster. Weve gotten to a point in American culture where you cant flirt with someone. Its gotten to the point where Im afraid to talk to someone in the workplace.
Thats my take, and I know a lot of people who feel the same way.
Jack Peterson agreed.
If he did it, he did it, Peterson said. But its a bad state of affairs when you look at some girl cross-eyed and shes gonna say it was sexual harassment.
Things were different when he was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, said Tim Palmer.
Lets be realistic, he said. If you werent groping when you went to the Anoka Theater, you werent trying.
Bill Boxwell called sexual harassment an issue all through society, saying people have to understand there are lines they cant cross.
I can see where its creepy at work, he said. And he understands why Minnesota Public Radio acted so swiftly to fire Keillor.
They know if they dont cut these guys loose, theyve got a problem, he said.
Helping her daughter with a coloring book at a downtown Anoka restaurant, Karen Beck said every woman has a story and its important that they be told.
Not every guy harasses women, but there isnt a woman who hasnt been harassed, she said. And I think its time we stood up as a society and said, Enough.andthinsp;
Has Beck been harassed?
O-o-h, yes, she said with a slow, emphatic nod.
Back at Billys, where the meat raffle was coming around, patron Doug Scanlon said the solution is simple: Keep your hands to yourself, he said.
Closer to Keillors St. Paul residence and businesses, opinions were similarly divided. Carol Ann Pedersen, who works near the Keillor-owned Common Good Books, said she has met the public radio star and seen his live show. She was disappointed to hear about the allegations against him.
Near the Fitzgerald Theater, several people said they listened to Keillors Prairie Home Companion and also attended live performances at the downtown St. Paul theater that was its home base. They were shocked about Keillors firing.
At Macalester College, where the first Prairie Home Companion shows originated in 1974, student Aberdeen McEvers hadnt heard the allegations, but said the college is proud to be across from the bookstore and to be associated with Keillor.
But that could change now, McEvers said. Judging by how people reacted to [the allegations against Sen.] Al Franken.
June Lang, who was shopping several stores away from the bookstore, said she was totally surprised, but her perception of Keillor hasnt changed.
Hes well-loved in Minnesota and across the country, as far as Im concerned, Lang said. I wish him well.
Lang said the growing number of sexual harassment allegations has the potential to tip into a sort of feeding frenzy. I think this has gotten to be a popular thing women doing this, she said. I just cant believe it.
Staff writer Karen Zamora contributed to this report.
John Reinan 612-673-7402