Minnesota Public Radio splits from Garrison Keillor amid misconduct allegations

By Abigail Tetzlaff, Managing Editor

The Minnesota-based public radio station (MPR) released a statement Wednesday, Nov. 29 informing viewers that the organization severed ties with writer, speaker and radio personality Garrison Keillor. The author, who was formerly the host of “A Prairie Home Companion” until Oct. 2016, was accused of inappropriate behavior by a female coworker. The name of the coworker is yet unknown.

MPR informed readers and listeners that the station has been in the process of conducting a legal investigation since Oct., and while doing so, the station has ended distribution of Keillor’s syndicated radio program called “The Writer’s Almanac,” will discontinue broadcast of “The Best of A Prairie Home Companion” and will change the name of American Public Media, now under the direction of Chris Thile.

In an email sent to the “Star Tribune,” mere minutes after the statement released, Keillor wrote: “I’m doing fine. 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.” Keillor went on to describe the incident and recourse leading to the investigation, saying, “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.”

On his Facebook page, Keillor wrote and later deleted, “It’s astonishing that fifty years of hard work can be trashed in a morning by an accusation. 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.” Though deleted, the “Star Tribune” reporter Neal Justin fortuitously captured a screenshot of the post and published it in a Nov. 30 article. Keillor issued another statement on his own website, saying, “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.”

On Nov. 28, Keillor wrote in a “Washington Post” column that he detested the recourse brought upon Minnesota Senator Al Franken, a public acquaintance and guest on “A Prairie Home Companion.” Of the allegations brought forth by Leeann Tweeden, “Eleven years later, a talk show host in L.A., she goes public and there is talk of resignation.” He argued, “This is pure absurdity, and the atrocity it leads to is a code of public deadliness. No kidding.”

The “Washington Post” fired Keillor over the column. Replacing the article with a statement, Editor Fred Hiatt explained that the article breached a transparency clause all columnists must abide. “Knowing he was under investigation for his workplace behavior,” wrote Hiatt, “he should not have written on that subject; or, if he was going to write, he should have told his editors and readers that he was under investigation.”

“Instead, he wrote a column defending Sen. Al Franken without any disclosure of his own situation.”

It is clear that while Keillor is being forcibly removed from MPR and other media outlets, he is not going quietly.

This article first appeared in the Friday, December 8, 2017, Edition of The Echo.