Aaaaand the hits just keep on coming, even here in Minnesota. Not only has Al Franken gotten caught groping, but now one of our senator’s passionate defenders suddenly finds himself out of a job. Garrison Keillor, former host of a radio show that celebrated Midwestern values and prairie populism, told the Associated Press that he’d been fired over what he describes as “improper behavior”:
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 heard.”
Keillor no longer works on PHC, but until now he still has produced “The Writer’s Almanac” for MPR. What exactly was the behavior in question? Thus far, the Associated Press has not detailed it, and MPR’s statement is non-specific:
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..
Whatever it was, it was enough for MPR to completely sever the relationship. They’re cutting loose from all of Keillor’s commercial venues, and will no longer run PHC “best of” shows that Keillor hosted. He’s morphing from their most prominent celebrity into an Unperson as we speak. If that was just over a consensual affair, it would be a wild overreaction — which is not to say that it’s anything more, but it certainly seems that way.
Until now, Keillor has also been a go-to figure for progressive commentary, a status that will almost certainly come to a halt now — and not just over this. Give credit to Keillor for setting a new world’s record in Takes That Aged Badly. He has an op-ed in today’s Washington Post scolding people for demanding Al Franken’s resignation, in which he typically takes forever to get to the point. Why, what happens if we hold Franken accountable? An “atrocity” in the form of “a code of public deadliness,” that’s what:
And then there is Sen. Al Franken. He did USO tours overseas when he was in the comedy biz. He did it from deep in his heart, out of patriotism, and the show he did was broad comedy of a sort that goes back to the Middle Ages. Shakespeare used those jokes now and then, and so did Bob Hope and Joey Heatherton when they entertained the troops. If you thought that Al stood outdoors at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan and told stories about small-town life in the Midwest, you were wrong. 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.
Franken should change his name to Newman and put the USO debacle behind him and then we’ll change frankincense to Febreze. Remove the slaveholder Washington from our maps, replacing him with Wampanoag, and replace Jefferson, who slept with Sally Hemings — consensual? I doubt it — with Powhatan, and what about the FDR Drive in New York, named for a man who was unfaithful to his wife? Let’s call it RFD and let it go at that.
Funny how Keillor skipped over the other allegation Tweeden lodged against Franken, which was a forced kiss complete with tongue against her expressed refusal. Keillor also skips over three other allegations of groping, but manages to offer paeans to Franken for using the same kind of “broad comedy” [broad? Oopsie!] that Shakespeare used. Even Franken’s remarkably stupid, hostile, and puerile picture just becomes “low comedy” in Keillor’s eyes, even though Tweeden makes it clear she didn’t consent to being the butt of the joke. That apparently doesn’t matter to Keillor, which speaks volumes about him — and the Washington Post editor that decided to run it.
Update: Give Keillor credit for consistency, too:
"A world in which there is no sexual harassment at all is a world in which there will not be any flirtation" — radio humorist Garrison Keillor at @PressClubDC April 7, 1994… at 31:05 in this video: https://t.co/9ChxtCdZqD pic.twitter.com/nTtJXar3nK
— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) November 29, 2017
Update: Keillor says this was over an incident of accidental contact, which also sounds familiar to those following the Franken story:
In an email to the Star Tribune Wednesday, Keillor said, “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.”
Keillor even managed a joke of sorts: “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.”
Then he turned more serious: “Anyone who ever was around my show can tell you that I was the least physically affectionate 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.”
Keillor’s story sounds pretty tame … but also a little weird, too. How does a shirt open in the back, and how does one’s hand go “up it about six inches” by accident? Somehow, I’d bet there’s more to this story, or else MPR wouldn’t be going nearly light speed in distancing itself from its former host.