By Jeff Baenen & Doug Glass
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Public Radio has provided additional details of allegations of sexual harassment against humorist Garrison Keillor, saying his alleged conduct went well beyond his account in November of accidentally touching a woman’s bare back.
MPR said in a statement Tuesday that Keillor was accused by a woman who worked on his “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show of dozens of sexually inappropriate incidents over several years, including requests for sexual contact and explicit sexual communications and touching.
MPR said the woman, whom it has not identified, detailed the allegations in a 12-page letter that included excerpts of emails and written messages. MPR said as it attempted to investigate the case, Keillor and his attorney refused to grant access to his computer, emails and text messages.
Keillor did not respond to an emailed request for comment from The Associated Press. He told the Minneapolis Star Tribune listeners were angry over his firing because they “smelled a rat” and “they know I’m not abusive.” He called the woman’s account “a highly selective and imaginative piece of work” drawn up by her attorney.
MPR faced a backlash from outraged Keillor fans after firing the best-selling humorist after four decades of his telling folksy stories about his fictional Minnesota hometown of Lake Wobegon. Keillor accused the station of firing him without a full investigation. Until MPR’s new statement Tuesday, the only account of his actions was his.
He told the Star Tribune on Nov. 29 that he had simply been trying to console a co-worker.
“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,” Keillor told the newspaper in an email. “I sent her an email of apology later, and she replied that she had forgiven me and not to think about it.”
In a note to members Tuesday afternoon, MPR President Jon McTaggart said otherwise.
“If the full 12-page letter or even a detailed summary of the alleged incidents were to be made public, we believe that would clarify why MPR ended its business relationship with Garrison and correct the misunderstandings and misinformation about the decision,” he added.
The station also disputed that Keillor was fired in a rush, laying out a timeline in which it launched an internal investigation after receiving a general allegation against Keillor from a former employee — not the alleged victim — in late August. MPR said that employee refused to identify the alleged victim or detail what happened to her, and MPR didn’t get specifics of the allegations until it received letters from the former employee Sept. 29 and from the alleged victim Oct. 22.
MPR said it notified its board Oct. 26 and launched an independent investigation a few days later.
MPR said Keillor responded to the allegations with his attorney present. MPR said Keillor and his attorney declined to give access to his computer, emails and text messages to allow a full investigation.
The station said it had avoided releasing more information about the allegations while it was in mediation with Keillor “and the other parties in this matter.”
“Unfortunately, the mediation sessions have not produced the final settlements we had hoped for,” the station said.
MPR has removed from its website archived “A Prairie Home Companion” shows featuring Keillor. The network also ended broadcasts of “The Writer’s Almanac,” Keillor’s daily reading of literary events and a poem, and ended rebroadcasts of Keillor-hosted “Prairie Home” shows.
Keillor, 75, retired in 2016 as host of “Prairie Home,” a Saturday evening radio variety show he created in 1974. The show, now titled “Live from Here,” continues with Keillor’s hand-picked successor, mandolinist Chris Thile.