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Garrison Keillor says he was fired for touching a woman’s back. His old bosses say otherwise.

Minnesota Public Radio refutes Keillor’s claims about his firing.

Garrison Keillor
Garrison Keillor.
Al Pereira/WireImage
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Minnesota Public Radio has issued a new statement regarding the allegations that led it to fire Garrison Keillor, reports Daily Beast writer Erin Gloria Ryan on Twitter — and they’re a lot more serious than Keillor claimed.

When MPR fired the former Prairie Home Companion host last November, it would say only that it had learned of “allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him” and had initiated an outside investigation into the charges. Keillor maintained that he’d been smeared, and that the real truth was “a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.”

Keillor’s version of what happened certainly didn’t sound like a firing offense to many people. “I put my hand on a woman’s bare back,” he wrote by email to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, adding that it had been an accident and that he had apologized to the woman in question.

To critics of the #MeToo movement who fear that we are in the midst of a witch hunt and that blameless men are being publicly destroyed, Keillor’s story became exhibit A. In the New York Times earlier this month, Daphne Merkin held him up as a contrast to “heinous sorts” like Kevin Spacey and Matt Lauer, arguing that Keillor had been unfairly tarred with the same brush as serious sexual predators.

But in MPR’s letter to its members, reproduced by Ryan on Twitter, the allegations against Keillor look very different.

MPR says it never received a complaint about Keillor accidentally touching a woman’s bare back — but it does say that one of its two complainants reported receiving unwanted sexual touches and written sexual messages from Keillor over a period of years; so many, in fact, that her written complaint contained 12 pages of documentation.

It looks like Keillor was truthful about at least one thing, and that the “real” story was indeed “more interesting and more complicated” than the version he was telling.

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