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MPR Severs Ties with Garrison Keillor over Alleged Improper Behavior

November 29, 2017 06:11 PM

Public radio icon Garrison Keillor says he has been fired by Minnesota Public Radio because he put his hand on a woman's bare back as he tried to console her.

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MPR, which is a private non-profit organization, announced Tuesday that it has severed ties with the former host of  "A Prairie Home Companion" after being notified last month of alleged inappropriate behavior. The incident allegedly involved an individual who worked with Keillor and occurred while he was responsible for production of "A Prairie Home Companion."

The network did not release other details of the allegation, but Keillor tells the Star Tribune 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."

Keillor says he considered her a friend and they remained friendly "right up until her lawyer called."

MPR said it has retained an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations. It said it does not know of any similar allegations involving other staff.

Keillor retired last year from the weekly radio show, but still produced a short daily feature called "The Writer's Almanac" for syndication. MPR said it is terminating distribution of "The Writer's Almanac" and repeats of Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" episodes, and will also change the name of the weekend variety show now hosted by Chris Thile.

"MPR takes these allegations seriously and we are committed to maintaining a safe, respectful and supportive work environment for all employees and everyone associated with MPR. We want a workplace where anyone who experiences unwanted behavior feels comfortable in reporting concerns to MPR. Discrimination, harassment, retaliation or other inappropriate behaviors will not be tolerated," the organization wrote in a statement.

Thile, who was Keillor's hand-picked successor on "A Prairie Home Companion," says he's "in shock." The mandolinist tweeted that he knew nothing about the accusation and says he trusts "that the proper steps are being taken."

A longtime voice actor on the show also says she never saw inappropriate behavior by Keillor. Sue Scott, who was an actress on the show for 24 years, tells The Associated Press she's stunned by Keillor's firing.

"A Prairie Home Companion" has been a cornerstone of public radio schedules nationwide for decades.  It grew so popular that MPR and Wisconsin Public Radio both simulcast the live Saturday broadcast on two networks in each state, meaning the show is heard simultaneously on four Twin Ports radio stations.

Keillor did a radio show from the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center in 2014.  He returned to Duluth this past spring for a performance at the College of St. Scholastica's Mitchell Auditorium as part of his "Gratitude Tour."

The Associated Press contributed to this reported.


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