MINNEAPOLIS - Garrison Keillor, the former host of "A Prairie Home Companion," says he's been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of improper behavior.
“It’s astonishing that 50 years of hard work can be trashed in a morning by an accusation,” Keillor said in a Facebook post Wednesday night. “I always believed in hard work and now it feels sort of meaningless. Only a friend can hurt you this badly. I think I have to leave the country in order to walk around in public and not feel accusing glances.”
Keillor told The Associated Press of his firing in an email. In a follow-up statement, he says he was fired over "a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard." He later told the Star Tribune that he was fired because he put his hand on a woman's bare back as he tried to console her. Keillor said in an email that he was trying to pat the woman's back after she had told him "about her unhappiness." Keillor wrote that the woman's shirt was open and his hand went up about 6 inches.
Keillor says he apologized when the woman recoiled, and also emailed the woman an apology. He says she replied she'd forgiven him and "not to think about it." The radio mainstay says he considered her a friend and they remained friendly "right up until her lawyer called."
Keillor later released a statement on his website: "I am deeply grateful for all the years I had doing "A Prairie Home Companion" and "The Writer's Almanac", the summer tours, the outdoor shows at Tanglewood and Wolf Trap, the friendships of musicians and actors, the saga of Lake Wobegon, the songs and sketches, Guy Noir, Dusty & Lefty, the sheer pleasure of standing in the warmth of that audience. A person could not hope for more than what I was given. I've been fired over a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard. Most stories are. It's some sort of poetic irony to be knocked off the air by a story, having told so many of them myself, but I'm 75 and don't have any interest in arguing about this. And I cannot in conscience bring danger to a great organization I've worked hard for since 1969. I am sorry for all the poets whose work I won't be reading on the radio and sorry for the people who will lose work on account of this. But my profound feeling is that of gratitude, especially to my wife Jenny, and for this painful experience that has brought us even closer together."
Keillor's performance Wednesday night at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Mass., has been canceled.
After emailing the AP to say he was fired, Keillor told the wire service that he was fired over "a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard." He didn't give details, nor did the company https://t.co/q01Ygb2xve— MPR News (@MPRnews) November 29, 2017
Minnesota Public Radio released a statement on the matter early Wednesday afternoon.
"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 (APHC). MPR President Jon McTaggart immediately informed the MPR Board Chair, and a special Board committee was appointed to provide oversight and ongoing counsel. In addition, MPR retained an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations. Based on what we currently know, there are no similar allegations involving other staff. The attorney leading the independent investigation has been conducting interviews and reviewing documents, and the investigation is still ongoing. "
MPR says the company is terminating all business with Keillor's media companies, including distribution and broadcast of The Writer's Almanac and rebroadcasts of The Best of A Prairie Home Companion hosted by Keillor. MPR will immediately change the name of American Public Media's weekly music and variety program hosted by Chris Thile, and is separating from the Pretty Good Goods online catalog and PrairieHome.org.
"Garrison Keillor has been an important part of the growth and success of MPR, and all of us in the MPR community are saddened by these circumstances," said Jon McTaggart, President of MPR. "While we appreciate the contributions Garrison has made to MPR and to all of public radio, we believe this decision is the right thing to do and is necessary to continue to earn the trust of our audiences, employees and supporters of our public service."
Keillor retired last year from his longtime radio show, but still produced "The Writer's Almanac" for syndication. His firing came one day after publications of a Washington Post column in which he argued against the idea that Minnesota Sen. Al Franken should resign his seat over allegations he groped radio host Leann Tweeden during a 2006 USO tour before he was elected to public office.
"Eleven years later, a talk show host in L.A., goes public, and there is talk of resignation," Keillor wrote. "This is pure absurdity, and the atrocity it leads to is a code of public deadliness. No kidding."