Garrison Keillor fired, says he put hand on woman’s back

MINNEAPOLIS — Garrison Keillor, the former host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” said Wednesday he has been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of what the network called improper behaviour.

Keillor told The Associated Press he was fired over “a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.” Keillor didn’t detail the allegation to AP, but he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune he had put his hand on a woman’s bare back when trying to console her.

“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. We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called.”

Minnesota Public Radio confirmed it had terminated contracts with Keillor after receiving a single allegation against him last month of “inappropriate behaviour.” MPR said the allegation stemmed from Keillor’s conduct when he was producing and hosting “A Prairie Home Companion.”

MPR said it knew of no other allegations but had retained an outside law firm that continues to investigate. Keillor didn’t say when the alleged incident occurred.

In his statement to AP, Keillor said it was “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.”

Keillor retired as host of the long-running public radio variety show in 2016. He hand-picked his successor, mandolinist and frequent musical guest Chris Thile, who is now in his second season as “Prairie Home” host. After Keillor retired, Keillor continued to work with MPR on other projects.

Thile tweeted Wednesday that he was “in shock” by the firing. He said he knew nothing about the allegation, adding: “I trust that the proper steps are being taken.”

Sue Scott, a longtime voice actor on the radio show until Keillor stepped down, told the AP she was stunned. She said she saw no evidence of inappropriate behaviour by him when she was on the show.

Fans also were shocked by the news. Cindy Dina, of the Minneapolis suburb of Forest Lake, said she frequently listened when Keillor hosted the show and admired Keillor, calling him “iconic.”

“It’s just one more, wow,” she said, adding that she hoped the continuous allegations against high-profile men would send a strong message to all men.

The firing Wednesday came shortly after Keillor, an avowed Democrat, wrote a syndicated column that ridiculed the idea that Minnesota Sen. Al Franken should resign over allegations of sexual harassment.

MPR said the name of the show, produced and distributed nationwide by American Public Media, would be changed. The show has been named “A Prairie Home Companion” for more than 40 years.

MPR also said it would end distribution of “The Writer’s Almanac,” Keillor’s daily reading of a poem and telling of literary events, and end rebroadcasts of “The Best of A Prairie Home Companion” hosted by Keillor.

Keillor started “A Prairie Home Companion” as a Saturday evening show in 1974, featuring tales of his fictional Minnesota hometown of Lake Wobegon “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

The show featured musical acts, folksy humour, parody ads for fake products such as Powdermilk Biscuits and the centerpiece, Keillor delivering a seemingly off-the-cuff monologue, “The News From Lake Wobegon,” in his rich baritone voice.

“A person could not hope for more than what I was given,” Keillor said in his statement Wednesday to AP.

Keillor bowed out with a final show at the Hollywood Bowl in July 2016, and turned the show over to Thile, a frequent “Prairie Home” guest musician. Keillor has been working on a Lake Wobegon screenplay and a memoir about growing up in Minnesota.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta children whose only symptom of COVID-19 is a runny nose or a sore throat will no longer require mandatory isolation, starting Monday.
477 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Thursday

Changes being made to the COVID-19 symptom list for school-age children

Chasetin Morin
Photo from RCMP
Three men accused of assaulting Blackfalds RCMP officer going to trial

RCMP officer shot and wounded one of alleged attackers in December 2019

The Cenovus Energy Inc. logo seen at the company's headquarters in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
One-time costs of Husky takeover expected to be about $500 million, says Cenovus CEO

One-time costs of Husky takeover expected to be about $500 million, says Cenovus CEO

This drum circle was one of a multitude of activities held at The Hub on Ross in downtown Red Deer. The facility was permanently closed by the provincial government his week. (Advocate file photo.)
Many Red Deerians react with anger, dismay at closure of The Hub on Ross

Many disabled people can’t afford other recerational options, says guardian

Award-winning Calgary developer Brad Remington stands with Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer at the site of three multi-family condo complexes that are planned for Capstone, west of Carnival Cinemas. (Photo by LANA MICHELIn/Advocate staff).
$36M condo project on its way to Capstone development

Calgary developer plans to create 180 housing units to open in 2022

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Workers at Olymel's Red Deer pork processing plant are among those eligible for a $2-an-hour bonus because of the pandemic.
Red Deer Advocate file photo
Two Olymel workers test positive for COVID-19 in Red Deer

Two workers at Olymel’s pork processing facility in Red Deer have tested… Continue reading

Ryan, Falcons avenge earlier loss to Panthers, 25-17

Ryan, Falcons avenge earlier loss to Panthers, 25-17

FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2015, file photo, former world boxing champion Roy Jones Jr. shows off his Russian passport during a news conference in Moscow, Russia. Mike Tyson and Jones got permission from California's athletic commission to return to the boxing ring next month because their fight would be strictly an exhibition of their once-unparalleled skills. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)
Mike Tyson, Roy Jones promise a fight in “exhibition” return

Mike Tyson, Roy Jones promise a fight in “exhibition” return

David Hearn watches his putt on the seventh hole during the first round of the Wyndham Championship golf tournament at Sedgefield Country Club on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, in Greensboro, N.C. David Hearn, like everyone, has been deeply effected by the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Chris Carlson
Canada’s Hearn looks to shake off poor 2020 results with more consistent play

Canada’s Hearn looks to shake off poor 2020 results with more consistent play

Malnati birdies half of holes to take 1-shot lead in Bermuda

Malnati birdies half of holes to take 1-shot lead in Bermuda

Penny Oleksiak swims the 200 metre race during the 2018 Team Canada finals in Edmonton on Wednesday July 18, 2018. The number of young swimmers in Canada is dwindling because of barriers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Swimming Canada urges pools to accommodate youth, says can be done safely

Swimming Canada urges pools to accommodate youth, says can be done safely

Canada's Meaghan Mikkelson (12) and Marie-Philip Poulin (29) defends against United States' Hilary Knight (21) during the third period of a rivalry series women's hockey game in Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada's director of women's national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team yearns for international competition

Canadian women’s hockey team yearns for international competition

Most Read