Is Everyone a Sexual Predator? Garrison Keillor is Latest Media Man to Be Fired

Update | Bad news out of Lake Wobegon: Garrison Keillor, beloved radio host and creator of A Prairie Home Companion, is the latest media personality to be accused of sexual misconduct.

Hours after NBC fired Matt Lauer for "inappropriate sexual behavior," the Associated Press reports that Keillor, 75, was fired by Minnesota Public Radio Wednesday “over allegations of inappropriate behavior.” MPR also severed contracts with Keillor’s media companies.

In a statement, MPR said the decision stemmed from claims made a month ago by a person who had worked with Keillor. The alleged incident occurred while Keillor was producing A Prairie Home Companion, the iconic radio show he created in 1974 and hosted until 2016.

"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 MPR president Jon McTaggart. "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."

GettyImages-153394468 Writer Garrison Keillor attends the Norman Mailer Center 4th Annual Benefit Gala on October 4, 2012 in New York City. Andy Kropa/Getty Images for Norman Mailer Center

MPR said it retained an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the allegation against Keillor. “Based on what we currently know,” MPR said, “there are no similar allegations involving other staff.”

Keillor sent a statement to the Star Tribune sharing his side of the accusation. "I put my hand on a woman's bare back," he wrote. "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," he added. "We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called."

The news comes a day after Keillor published a Washington Post op-ed defending Minnesota Senator Al Franken, who is dealing with misconduct allegations of his own.

“On the flight home [from a USO show], in a spirit of low comedy, Al ogled [Leann] Tweeden and pretended to grab her and a picture was taken,” Keillor wrote. “Eleven years later, a talk show host in LA, she goes public, and there is talk of resignation. This is pure absurdity, and the atrocity it leads to is a code of public deadliness. No kidding.”

In light of the allegations against him, Keillor’s trademark gee-whiz glibness regarding the Franken accusations is tone deaf at best. He quotes a pastor friend who warned of the “slippery ground” of judging “past actions by present standards and with a benefit of hindsight that is, morally, highly questionable.” It’s something Keillor agrees with, then sarcastically suggests Franken give himself a new last name and be done with the whole sordid episode.

But Keillor now faces that judgment for real. By terminating its contracts with him, MPR is ending its distribution of Companion reruns and episodes of The Writer's Almanac and separating itself from websites that promote Companion and sell its merchandise.

For decades, Keillor has stood as a standard-bearer of midwestern values and the non-confrontational, tote-bag carrying culture of public media. If even someone like that can be toppled by allegations of misconduct, you have to wonder who’s next. What other seemingly-benign media figure has skeletons in their closet, stacked alongside shelves of Powdermilk Biscuits?

Actually, don’t answer that.

Update: Story updated to include statement from Garrison Keillor.

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