Garrison Keillor accuser detailed 'dozens of sexually inappropriate incidents,' per MPR CEO
When humorist Garrison Keillor was fired from his post at Minnesota Public Radio last year for “inappropriate sexual behavior,” little else was divulged at the time. However, MPR CEO Jon McTaggart, writing to members and listeners in a new letter, explained the claims went much further than one incident.
“The questions we’ve been asked are important ones and deserve factual responses,” he wrote.
While Keillor’s accuser remains unidentified, McTaggart said this woman worked for Keillor during his time on A Prairie Home Companion. “In a letter to MPR dated October 22, 2017, the woman’s attorney described dozens of sexually inappropriate incidents directed at her client over a period of years,” McTaggart wrote. “In fact, the woman’s attorney presented us with a 12-page letter detailing many of the alleged incidents, including excerpts of emails and written messages, requests for sexual contact and explicit descriptions of sexual communications and touching. Because of the serious and sensitive nature of the allegations, we decided to undertake an independent investigation and we told Garrison that we were doing so.”
According to The Star Tribune, Keillor told the paper, “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.”
McTaggart says the woman “did not allege that Garrison touched her back, but did claim that he engaged in other unwanted sexual touching.” McTaggart believes if he disclosed the contents of the letter to the public, it would “clarify” MPR’s decision to fire Keillor. But the letter will remain confidential to protect “the privacy of those involved, including Garrison.”
He also stated MPR has received two formal complaints about Keillor, one being the woman who accused him. The other “claims to know about some of the alleged behavior.”
An independent law firm separate from MPR headed the investigation, which included multiple requests to access Keillor’s computer, emails, and text messages. “To date, all requests to review Garrison’s emails and texts related to this matter have been refused by Garrison or his attorneys,” McTaggart said.
“MPR’s process was deliberate, diligent and included Garrison,” he further explained. “Due process means providing notice of the allegations and an opportunity to respond to them. Garrison was informed of the allegations and he responded to them with his attorney present before we made the decision to end our relationship with his companies.”
In a lengthy statement obtained by EW, Keillor called the woman’s claims “a highly selective and imaginative piece of work” and MPR’s letter a “response to a blizzard of anger, all of it richly deserved, after MPR expunged shows that people loved.”
“Listeners know me far better than MPR management does and they know I’m not abusive,” Keillor said. “Management, when it heard a complaint back in October, did not have the good manners to call me, a part of MPR for 50 years, and sit down with me face-to-face and talk about what had happened. If they had done that simple courteous thing, this all would’ve been avoided. Instead, they have been duplicitous from first to last, starting with how they began their Potemkin ‘investigation’ up until the very moment when they issued a letter in the midst of mediation where we had agreed to not to make any public comments.”
Keillor went on to say that the woman, whom he calls a friend, was a freelance researcher working “from home by email” most of the time. “I hardly ever saw her in the office,” he said. “Our friendship — which was mutual, reciprocal and respectful — continued in frequent emails about our kids and travel and family things that continued to my last show and beyond.”
“If I am guilty of harassment, then every employee who stole a pencil is guilty of embezzlement,” he added. “I’m an honest fiction writer and I will tell this story in a novel.”
“Garrison is one of the most talented, creative, generous and hard-working people I’ve ever met,” McTaggart said. “We are deeply grateful for all that he has done for MPR, for Minnesota and for our country. He has brought so much joy to countless listeners all over the world.”
In a statement Keillor issued in November, he said, “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.”
This article has been updated with Keillor’s full response.