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Garrison Keillor fired by Minnesota Public Radio for 'inappropriate behavior'

A humorist and radio personality, Garrison Keillor is the latest celebrity to be publicly accused of misconduct while on the job.
Image: Garrison Keillor
Garrison Keillor, creator and host of "A Prairie Home Companion, in an interview by The Associated Press on July 20, 2015, in St. Paul, Minnesota.Jim Mone / AP file

Garrison Keillor, the folksy former host and creator of "A Prairie Home Companion," has been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over "allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him."

Keillor was axed a month after the public radio station received a report about his alleged "conduct" while he was still producing the show that he hosted from 1974 until he retired last year.

"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," MPR president Jon McTaggart said Wednesday.

"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."

MPR has hired an outside lawyer "to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations," the public radio station said in statement.

"Based on what we currently know, there are no similar allegations involving other staff," it said.

Keillor released a statement in which he said he was fired over “a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.” But he did not release any details.

"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," he added. "And I cannot in conscience bring danger to a great organization I've worked hard for since 1969."

Keillor said he was "sorry for the people who will lose work on account of this."

"But my profound feeling is that of gratitude, especially to my wife, Jenny, and for this painful experience that has brought us even closer together," he said.

Earlier, in an email to The Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper, Keillor said all he did was "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," he wrote. "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 added that, "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," he wrote. "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."

A humorist, author, and Grammy Award-winning radio personality famous for his dispatches from the fictional Minnesota town of Lake Wobegon, Keillor retired last year from his long-running show which is broadcast live on Saturday nights from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota. But he still produced "The Writer's Almanac" for syndication.

In addition, MPR is severing its "business relationships with Mr. Keillor's media companies effective immediately" and ending distribution and broadcast of "The Writer's Almanac" and rebroadcasts of "The Best of A Prairie Home Companion hosted by Garrison Keillor."

The thrice-married Keillor is the latest celebrity to be publicly accused of misconduct while on the job.

News of Keillor's ouster came just hours after NBC News fired "Today" anchor Matt Lauer after a complaint about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace that took place during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.