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Garrison Keillor says he was fired over alleged improper behavior

Author Garrison Keillor attends the annual Moth Ball literary and charity event at Capitale November 18, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Will Ragozzino/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS – Garrison Keillor, the former host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” says he’s been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of improper behavior.

Keillor told The Associated Press of his firing in an email. In a follow-up statement, he says he was fired over “a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) heard.”

Keillor tells the Minneapolis 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.”

Keillor retired last year from his longtime radio show, but still produced “The Writer’s Almanac” for syndication.

He sent the following letter to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

“I’m doing fine. Getting fired is a real distinction in broadcasting and I’ve waited fifty years for the honor. All of my heroes got fired. I only wish it could’ve been for something more heroic. I put my hand on a woman’s bare back. 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. 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. Anyone who ever was around my show can tell you that I was the least physically affection person in the building. Actors hug, musicians hug, people were embracing every Saturday night left and right, and I stood off in the corner like a stone statue. If I had a dollar for every woman who asked to take a selfie with me and who slipped an arm around me and let it drift down below the beltline, I’d have at least a hundred dollars. So this is poetic irony of a high order. But I’m just fine. I had a good long run and am grateful for it and for everything else.”

Here’s MPR’s full statement:

Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) is terminating its contracts with Garrison Keillor and his private media companies after recently learning of allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him.Last month, MPR was notified of the allegations which relate to Mr. Keillor’s conduct while he was responsible for the production of A Prairie Home Companion (APHC). MPR President Jon McTaggart immediately informed the MPR Board Chair, and a special Board committee was appointed to provide oversight and ongoing counsel. In addition, MPR retained an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations. Based on what we currently know, there are no similar allegations involving other staff. The attorney leading the independent investigation has been conducting interviews and reviewing documents, and the investigation is still ongoing. We encourage anyone with additional information to call our confidential hotline 1-877-767-7781.

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.

MPR will end its business relationships with Mr. Keillor’s media companies effective immediately. By terminating the contracts, MPR and American Public Media (APM) will:

* end distribution and broadcast of The Writer’s Almanac and rebroadcasts of The Best of A Prairie Home Companion hosted by Garrison Keillor;

* change the name of APM’s weekly music and variety program hosted by Chris Thile; and,

* separate from the Pretty Good Goods online catalog and the PrairieHome.org website.

MPR and APM will work closely with public radio stations to help make the programming transitions as seamless as possible. “Garrison Keillor has been an important part of the growth and success of MPR, and all of us in the MPR community are saddened by these circumstances,” said Jon McTaggart, President of MPR. “While we appreciate the contributions Garrison has made to MPR and to all of public radio, we believe this decision is the right thing to do and is necessary to continue to earn the trust of our audiences, employees and supporters of our public service.” “Over the last several weeks, the special Board Committee has worked closely with MPR President Jon McTaggart and legal counsel to review the facts as we know them and carefully consider the implications of the various options,” said David Murphy, Chair of the MPR Board of Trustees. “The Board Committee concluded that terminating the Keillor relationships was the appropriate decision and the Board and Jon are aligned in this action. Fortunately, MPR is one of the strongest public broadcasting organizations in the country. We are confident MPR will continue to innovate with programming and content that ensures MPR will remain one of the most valued sources of news, information and entertainment for decades to come.”