Humorist and long-time radio host Garrison Keillor, of A Prairie Home Companion fame, says he might have to move out of the country after being ousted from the Minnesota Public Radio for inappropriate behavior.
Keillor, the 75-year-old veteran broadcaster who is married, confirmed his firing on Wednesday, claiming that it stemmed from an incident from years earlier in which he says he accidentally touched an acquaintance’s bare back while attempting to console her.
Keillor later took to Facebook, decrying his downfall after five decades of ‘hard work’ and complaining that he was feeling ostracized everywhere he went. The post has since been deleted, but the Minneapolis Star-Tribune got a screenshot of it.
Garrison Keillor, the former host of ‘A Prairie Home Companion,’ fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of improper behavior, says he may have to leave the country
Defensive pose: The 75-year-old humorist bemoaned his fate in this Wednesday evening Facebook post and talked about moving to a different country
‘It’s astonishing that 50 years of hard work can be trashed in a morning by an accusation,’ the twice-divorced former MPR stalwart lamented on Wednesday evening. ‘I always believed in hard work and now it feels sort of meaningless.
‘Only a friend can hurt you this badly. I think I have to leave the country in order to walk around in public and not feel accusing glances.’
In a subsequent message to some Facebook friends, Keillor said he had a ‘good conversation’ with his wife about whet they really need in life.
‘I need her and I need to have work to do and I need to live someplace where we can both be happy,’ he reportedly wrote. ‘I think we should move east and leave the past behind.’
In an email to MPR on Wednesday referring to the recent spate of sexual harassment allegations against powerful men in politics, entertainment and the news media, Keillor said the country was ‘in the grips of a mania.’
The comment was made in the context of the sexual misconduct allegations that multiple women have made against Senator Al Franker, a Democrat from Minnesota whom Keillor defended in a newspaper column a day earlier.
In an email sent to the Star Tribune on Wednesday, Keillor appeared to seesaw from serious to lighthearted about the sacking, remarking that the incident occurred after he attempted to console an unspecified female acquaintance.
‘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,’ Keillor recalled in the statement.
Writer Garrison Keillor married his third wife Lind Nilsson (pictured) in 1995, who gave birth to their daughter two years later
‘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 he viewed firing as an ‘honor,’ and was proud to follow in the footsteps of his ‘heroes.’
‘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,’ he said.
Keillor and his first wife, Mary Guntzel (pictured 1965), divorced in 1975 shortly after giving birth to his first child, Jason
The 75-year-old appeared to blame the incident on a self-described socially awkward demeanor, but seemed resigned in the wake of his sudden ouster from MPR.
‘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,’ he added.
Keillor also told The Associated Press of his firing in an email. In a follow-up statement, he said he was fired over ‘a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.’
‘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. And I cannot in conscience bring danger to a great organization I’ve worked hard for since 1969,’ Keillor said.
Keilor was born on August 7, 1942 in Anoka, Minnesota (pictured) and earned an English degree from the University of Minnesota in 1966
‘A person could not hope for more than what I was given,’ he said.
Minnesota Public Radio confirmed Keillor had been fired, saying it received a single allegation of ‘inappropriate behavior’ and doesn’t know of any other similar allegations.
‘Based on what we currently know, there are no similar allegations involving other staff,’ MPR said, noting the alleged incident occurred last month.
‘The attorney leading the independent investigation has been conducting interviews and reviewing documents, and the investigation is still ongoing,’ MPR added.
Keillor retired as host of his long-running public radio variety show in 2016.
His hand-picked successor, mandolinist Chris Thile, is in his second season as ‘Prairie Home’ host.
The firing comes just one day after the Washington Post published a new op-ed by Keillor, an avowed Democrat, defending Al Franken, called ‘Al Franken should resign? That’s absurd.’
Keillor started his Saturday evening show featuring tales of his fictional Minnesota hometown of Lake Wobegon – ‘where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average’ – in 1974.
Garrison Keillor and daughter Maia Grace (pictured) during Premiere Parade for Picturehouse’s ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ at Fitzgeral Theatre in St. Paul, MN
The show featured musical acts, folksy humor, parody ads for fake products such as Powdermilk Biscuits and the centerpiece, Keillor delivering a seemingly off-the-cuff monologue, ‘The News From Lake Wobegon,’ in his rich baritone voice.
Keillor bowed out with a final show at the Hollywood Bowl in July 2016 and turned the show over to Thile, a mandolinist and frequent ‘Prairie Home’ guest musician.
Garrison Keillor performs at Iroquois Amphitheater on September 7, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky
Keilor was born on August 7, 1942 in Anoka, Minnesota and earned an English degree from the University of Minnesota in 1966.
The former radio personality and author has been married three times, with his son Jason being born in 1969 by his first wife Mary Guntzel. They divorced after 11 years of marriage in 1976.
He later married Ulla Skaerved, a former exchange student from Denmark that attended his high school, from 1985 to 1990.
In 1995, Keilor married violist Jenny Lind Nilsson, with whom he had a daughter, Maia Grace Keillor, two years later.
Keillor went on a 28-city bus tour this summer, vowing it would be his last tour, but he continues on the road with solo shows.
Keillor still produces the radio show, ‘The Writer’s Almanac,’ for syndication, and is finishing a Lake Wobegon screenplay and a memoir about growing up in Minnesota.