Minnesota Public Radio has released further information about its investigation into former "A Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor, rebutting claims by its onetime associate that he was fired for putting his hand on a woman's bare back while comforting her.
In a long letter addressed to its listeners, members and staffers on Tuesday, MPR's president, Jon McTaggart, talked about the organization's process but still did not reveal the identity of the woman who lodged complaints over Keillor's workplace behavior.
"Since early December, MPR Members and listeners have asked us a lot of questions related to our decision, some of which are based on misinformation that has been widely circulated in the press and social media," McTaggart said.
MPR's late-November decision to terminate Keillor — which meant that legally it had to separate itself from all things "Prairie Home Companion," including its online merchandise catalog, archives and even the title of the show that has gone on with a new host since Keillor retired from it in 2016 — had been criticized as insufficiently transparent.
"Garrison has posted statements to social media and provided information to reporters that have not been fully accurate and have suggested that MPR did not handle these matters thoughtfully," McTaggart said. "The irony is that while MPR has been careful to protect Garrison's privacy and not hurry any decisions, others have rushed to judge and criticize MPR's actions without knowing the facts."
The day after he was let go, Keillor wrote on his website, "I've been fired over a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard. Most stories are.
"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," Keillor added. He made similar posts on social media, including one alleging that he'd simply touched a woman on her bare back.
McTaggart said in the letter that in late August, a male former employee brought one woman's allegations to the attention of MPR "in a general way" and that led to an internal inquiry. "Garrison was informed of the allegations and he responded to them with his attorney present before we made the decision to end our relationship with his companies."
A formal investigative process of which Keillor was entirely aware began after the woman told the station that he had engaged in "unwanted sexual touching" dozens of times over a period of years. Her attorney presented MPR with "a 12-page letter detailing many of the alleged incidents, including excerpts of emails and written messages, requests for sexual contact and explicit descriptions of sexual communications and touching," McTaggart said. The woman did not mention Keillor touching her on her back.
MPR's internal investigation included interviews, document reviews and more, McTaggart's statement said. The woman's identity and the details of the allegations haven't been released, McTaggart said, because the woman hasn't publicly done so herself. He said requests to review Keillor's emails and texts were refused by the host or his attorneys.
MPR News, however, published a story Tuesday in which it detailed allegations against Keillor regarding multiple women, including claims of sexual harassment, bullying and an attempt to give a former romantic partner a $16,000 check in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement. Though Keillor said he couldn't comment for that story, he questioned whether MPR News could report fairly on the actions of Minnesota Public Radio.
"I hope this additional information helps you understand the care and diligence we used in making the decisions we did," McTaggart said in his letter. "Put simply, we are confident that we followed a fair process and made the right decision, based on the facts."