Minnesota Public Radio has fired iconic radio host Garrison Keillor over “allegations of improper behavior,” the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
According to MPR, the station learned of “allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him” last month, and subsequently hired an outside law firm to look into the case. MPR described the investigation as continuing, and said that they were not aware of any other allegations, but that they were severing their ties with Keillor by both “end[ing] distribution and broadcast of The Writer's Almanac and rebroadcasts of The Best of A Prairie Home Companion” and renaming the current iteration of the weekly show hosted by Chris Thile.
According to Keillor, who released a statement to the AP, the firing was due to “a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.” In a follow-up, he added that “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.”
It was just last year that Keillor retired from A Prairie Home Companion, the milestone radio variety show he created in 1974, to focus on his own writing. In fact, in a twist of jaw-dropping timing, his latest piece came out just yesterday in the Washington Post and is titled “Al Franken should resign? That’s absurd.”
It is, separate from today’s developments, a deeply confusing piece. Keillor kicks it off by decrying the push to rebrand monuments and institutions named for deeply flawed people, insisting that “renaming is a slippery business” — a sentiment that reads quite differently today, as his landmark show is undergoing exactly that process. He also dismisses criticism of Minnesota Sen. Al Franken — who is currently under fire for allegations of sexual misconduct — as “absurd,” saying that Franken is getting unfairly pilloried for a “broad comedy of a sort that goes back to the Middle Ages.” He then cites Bob Hope and William Shakespeare as examples of men who did the same, and should apparently not be held to a particularly high standard of decency.
In response to the initial account from Leeann Tweeden, in which she alleged Franken harassed her on a USO tour and published a photo of Franken grabbing at her breasts while she slept, Keillor wrote:
On the flight home, in a spirit of low comedy, Al ogled Miss Tweeden and pretended to grab her and a picture was taken. 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.
That “public deadliness” of daring to hold people accountable for their actions, it seems, has now led to Keillor’s own firing.