Letter to the editor: Keillor’s punishment is out of proportion to what he did

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The sexual predators who have been unmasked in recent months, from Harvey Weinstein to James Levine, deserve to have their careers come to crashing and humiliating ends.  They also deserve to have as much evidence that their careers ever existed erased as completely as possible.

But does Garrison Keillor fall into this category? I don’t think so.

Furthermore, when a woman reveals that a man has made unwanted sexual advances or committed perverse acts against her, it’s often the case that other women come forward to lodge similar complaints. We’ve seen this happen with virtually every man who has been outed in the past few months.

But I haven’t read about other women coming forward to complain about inappropriate conduct by Keillor.

If it had been proven beyond doubt that Keillor committed a terrible act with even one woman, the fact that he has done more for public radio than virtually any other single individual over the last nearly half-century would not absolve him from that behavior, any more than what Weinstein contributed to the film industry or Levine accomplished in the classical music world absolves them for the atrocious ways they have behaved.

But Keillor has been accused of putting his hand on a woman’s back to console her. He apologized for doing that when the woman indicated discomfort, she accepted his apology, and their friendship continued. And for this, MPR tries to wipe him and his career off the face of the earth?

It seems to me that a more appropriate and rational response would have been to have admonished Keillor and, having done so, recognized that his action could not in any way be compared to the unspeakable acts against multitudes of women and men that so many others have committed, and stood by him.

To have canceled Keillor’s contracts, including Writer’s Almanac, erased everything with his name on it and changed the name of A Prairie Home Companion is a punishment that is wildly out of proportion to what he did.

If I’m right about the Keillor situation, I hope this serves as a cautionary tale to those who would rush to judgment before besmirching the reputation of a legendary and iconic artist who, at the very worst, committed a minor offense.

Steve Robinson
New Media Productions
Former GM, WFMT and the WFMT Radio Network

  • frankguerin

    Thank you, Mr. Robinson, for addressing how this has been handled. As you said, Mr. Keillor’s actions could have been dealt with at work — and, indeed, seemed to have been personally addressed between two adults. I am puzzled over why this woman decided to come forward publicly. In a long work history as management, what I have learned is how each case seeming similar on the surface, can be vastly different in fact. And, that there are various undercurrents in the workplace where men and women share space. Men bring their personal histories to work …. but so do women. For Mr. Keillor to be brought down by such an incident would be a travesty.

    • mary angela douglas

      I think she may have been drawn into the social media robotically created vortex of a psuedo movement to add her experience to the fray but it is ludicrously out of place there. And sad that she would have such vindictiveness when he already apologized.knowing he would most likely be lumped in unfairly with real offenders. For darn sure it’s a travesty as you point out. Of just about every human value there is.

  • HocusLocus

    By their actions Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media have demonstrated that they are NOT the type of people you’d want as neighbors. Or agents. Or producers. Or distributors. Or news journalists. Or webmasters. Or underwriters. Or archivists. Or corporate role models. Or partners. Or friends. Did I forget anything? Is there anything left?

    Just a soulless building full of empty excuses and a massive amount of talented artists looking in from outside who should be wondering right now… who will be next, why and how? And — if no heads roll — at what point will the organization begin to take preemptive measures based on rumor, pure paranoia and malice?

    • mary angela douglas

      They do indeed seem soulless. What a cogent comment. Agree very much with the word malice. Think there is another agenda going on, something like, out with the old, in with the new despite the people’s wishes. Which makes them like a totalitarian state when you come down to it.

      • frankguerin

        Yes, Mary, that’s always the case with the media. Some people try to fight it, then are made to look like fools.

  • mary angela douglas

    Totally agree with your beautifully lucid and reasonable article. The malice that was shown to Keillor is beyond the Beyond. It’s awful especially considred what a light filled, hilarious, nostalgic, wildly imaginative world with camaraderie and sing a longs thrown into the mix in Prairie Home Companion and the very real support he gave budding poets and writers through Writer’s Almanac. You can judge a man by his fruits the saying goes and the fruits of his creative work were manifoldly beautiful and humane. Plus he apologized and the apology was accepted so this is just plain vanilla tables turned unfairly. This is little ode to Lake Wobegon, my droplet in the sea of those who refuse to throw Garrison Keillor or his work overboard because we cherish both and who among us is perfect.

    FOR LAKE WOBEGON, DISAPPEARING…

    for Garrison Keillor

    the land is going away they cried
    let it be Green Ginger’s then
    not appearing on all the maps

    by the wayside fruit stands
    at the ESSO Stations where
    they wiped the windshields clear

    with thick pink paper towels for free
    and dished out wintertime’s
    Goodyear Christmas Carols

    oh don’t disappear and yet,

    goodbye to the land
    rising in an apricot apotheosis, dear
    its cornstalks like the fiery golden spears

    sometimes appearing
    in paintings of St. George and the Dragon.
    we will miss you when we’re walking on

    the air that’s left
    when Beauty leaves the room

    or on craters where the apple orchards stood
    in white pink radiance cadences of the blessed
    and it’s not I that have a tear in my eye

    or that myriad lakes have all dried up
    from ruthless second guessing
    for as yet the earth beneath them

    mourns in a strange blue clay

    remembering-
    but that the sum of all things,
    mermaids turning to stone

    they murder in this world

    that find their place again
    down God’s long
    golden road

    still fills up my Soul.

    mary angela douglas 4 december 2017

  • mary angela douglas

    Totally agree with your beautifully lucid and reasonable article. The malice that was shown to Keillor is beyond the Beyond. It’s awful especially considering what a light filled, hilarious, nostalgic, wildly imaginative world with camaraderie and sing a longs thrown into the mix was Prairie Home Companion plus an extraordinary homage to Old Radio – and considering the very real support he gave budding poets and writers through Writer’s Almanac. You can judge a man by his fruits the saying goes and the fruits of his creative work were manifoldly beautiful and humane. Plus he apologized and the apology was accepted so this is just plain vanilla tables turned unfairly. here is my little ode to Lake Wobegon, my droplet in the sea of those who refuse to throw Garrison Keillor or his life’s work overboard because we cherish both and who among us is perfect. They would never have done that in Lake Wobegon. Another reason why we loved it so. Maybe a few people would have been grouchy but they would have talked it all out at the Chatterbox Cafe and then gone ice fishing.

    FOR LAKE WOBEGON, DISAPPEARING…

    for Garrison Keillor

    the land is going away they cried
    let it be Green Ginger’s then
    not appearing on all the maps

    by the wayside fruit stands
    at the ESSO Stations where
    they wiped the windshields clear

    with thick pink paper towels for free
    and dished out wintertime’s
    Goodyear Christmas Carols

    oh don’t disappear and yet,

    goodbye to the land
    rising in an apricot apotheosis, dear
    its cornstalks like the fiery golden spears

    sometimes appearing
    in paintings of St. George and the Dragon.
    we will miss you when we’re walking on

    the air that’s left
    when Beauty leaves the room

    or on craters where the apple orchards stood
    in white pink radiance cadences of the blessed
    and it’s not I that have a tear in my eye

    or that myriad lakes have all dried up
    from ruthless second guessing
    for as yet the earth beneath them

    mourns in a strange blue clay

    remembering-
    but that the sum of all things,
    mermaids turning to stone

    they murder in this world

    that find their place again
    down God’s long
    golden road

    still fills up my Soul.

    mary angela douglas 4 december 2017

    • Phil Runkel

      I share your sentiments. As a regular listener (for over three decades) and an archivist by profession, I’m very disturbed by MPR’s hasty erasing of Garrison’s broadcasts from the internet
      and airwaves, based upon what we presently know of the allegations against him.

    • frankguerin

      Wow. Lovely.

  • Nordonia Nate

    Reading the comments regarding protecting sexual predator is very disturbing.. But… I would guess the same people continue to defend Bill Clinton..

    What’s sad times we live in when a sexual predator is admired….

    • frankguerin

      Nordonia…..A simplistic remark there. No one is defending Bill Clinton’s continuous lasciviousness. However, let’s also keep in mind that Ms. Lewinsky prior had a lengthy affair with her married professor, and stated to a friend

      • frankguerin

        ….that she is “bringing her kneepads” to Washington! She knew his weakness and zoomed right in. It’s her character too on the line.

  • Dina

    I think you’re overlooking some key facts.
    The most important of which is: we dont know what he’s been accused of. We only know what he’s publicly saying. All I’m saying is consider the source and hold judgement until we know more. Mr. Keillor may be downplaying or just omitting the facts. His punishment does seem extreme if that’s all he did, but an MPR spokesperson said “multiple allegations” were made by this woman. So what are the others?

    • Dr. John Smith

      Exactly. It’s premature to declare that there has been a disproportionate response. The only description of Keillor’s actions has been provided by Keillor himself. I’d argue that the severity of the response is itself an indication that his account may not be accurate or complete.

  • jonathan

    Let’s assume the worst about Keillor. Some woman shows up and probably takes up a bunch of his time complaining about her husband/lover. This sort of thing happens to nice guys a LOT. Not surprisingly some guys see this as an opening for sex—and why not—it sometimes works. It also has the side benefit of keeping these draining crabfests to a minimum. So let’s assume that Keillor thought that after being such a good listener, he just might get laid.

    And for that trivial “crime,” MPR has decided to remove his name from easily the most important body of cultural work this state has had in the past 50 years. His shows were actually uplifting at times. And while we Lutes sometimes cringed at his portrayal of us as silly, neurotic, and trivial, I know of no one who did’t absolutely love him. His distinction between Dark Lutherans and Church-of-the-brunch Lutherans once had me laughing so hard I actually pulled the car over to regain my composure.

    For those of us who actually moved on from puberty, such a focus on the petty aspects of the mating games seems utterly infantile. But since this society cannot focus on anything remotely important, we gossip about sex. Throw into the mix the moral illiterates who seem to believe that so long as you can get crazy-prudish about sex, you have satisfied all requirements for being a ethical person. Um NO.

    Keillor made MPR a LOT of money and they hired a bunch of nobodies who came to believe they were important because they signed big checks. And these drooling morons are the folks who believe Keillor should be culturally “disappeared.” Well, my vote is Keillor and as for the nobodies, please just go away—forever.

  • Nordonia Nate

    frankguerin …. I read your response to my post and … and .. and I am at a loss for words relative to your defense… YOUR accusation of Ms. Lewinsky’s past life is more than enough justification to exonerate Bill Clinton’s predation …

    WHICH is EXACTLY the point I make with Garrison Keillor.. YOU people need a reality check and understand sexual predators are NOT acceptable..

    • frankguerin

      There is no “defense” here nor “exoneration” nor “justification”, if you read carefully. What I did was bring in another element, based on life experience. In the case of Lewinsky, there was a pattern in her life and blatant intent toward Clinton. Don’t make excuses for her! There are surely instances of women being physically trapped by a man with no way out, or being surprised by an unexpected move from a trusted male. But, there are ALSO instances of women who could have removed themselves and did not. Matt Lauer’s accuser states “I let him rape me….”. One from Harvey Weinstein said he “raped (me) more than once”. Here’s one of Donald Trump’s targets – “we’re sitting next to each other on a plane, he kisses me, touches my breasts for a while….BUT then he went for my p#$%y and I tried to stop him….” Sounds like high school….”you can stay above the waist but that’s all!” And, those protecting their jobs, remaining in abusive environments for years, while there is always another job to be had! I interviewed a woman for a very responsible position. She seemed to be qualified, called her in and she went off on why she was leaving – the former boss was “abusive”. How long did this go on? “The whole time I worked there.” How long was that? “Twenty-two years.” ??? Give some more thought to this. Of course, no excuses for the brutes, pedophiles and repeat offenders.

    • Nordonia Nate

      frankguerin … Another response that is far more disturbing than the original … Seek help. PLEASE. It is the beginning of your recovery. I am not surprised they are not public.

  • scottrose

    This sentence in this op-ed is moronic:

    “They also deserve to have as much evidence that their careers ever existed erased as completely as possible.”

    We don’t preserve and study significant cultural products for the people who produced them. We preserve and study significant cultural products because THEY ARE VERIFIABLY A PART OF HISTORY.

  • GeoffreyClark

    If we are in the midst of a cultural revolution regarding the treatment of women, surely we are the the Reign of Terror phase. Everyone accused is guilty and there is only one punishment: into the tumbrel and off to the guillotine! Even worse than the way that Garrison was treated (at least from the information in the public record), is the presumption that the public is not qualified to make a judgement on the quality and value of his body of work, which I believe is one of the greatest in the history of public broadcasting. Commenter scottrose is right. If for no other reason that the public PAID for it, we have a right to it! What Minnesota Public Radio has done smacks of Stalin’s purges or Hitler’s book burning.