Maybe Garrison Keillor shouldn’t have written that op-ed piece


This morning, there was a column in The Washington Post by Garrison Keillor sort of sticking up, in his own tongue-in-cheek way, for Al Franken.

I wondered at the time, Is that a good idea?

Now, the AP is reporting this:

MINNEAPOLIS — Garrison Keillor says he’s been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of inappropriate behavior….

Yikes! You suppose there’s a connection? You suppose someone read that op-ed piece and decided, “That it! I’m gonna tell the world about this guy…”

This morning, I overheard someone saying this in reaction to the Matt Lauer thing: “I ain’t putting nothing past nobody now!”

No kidding…

16 thoughts on “Maybe Garrison Keillor shouldn’t have written that op-ed piece

  1. Bryan Caskey

    “Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women were harassed, all the men were icky, and all the children are informed when Garrison Keillor moves into the neighborhood.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, he has long been the poster child for that joke. I seem to recall that he’s made that joke about himself.

      Interestingly, he wrote this in that column today:

      And immediately I thought about the Minneapolis Park Board voting to rename Lake Calhoun as Lake Bde Maka Ska because the man for whom it was named back in the early 1820s was a slavery enthusiast from South Carolina and an author of the Indian Removal Act and also, judging from his pictures, ugly as a mud fence….

      When you’re Garrison Keillor, you have to have some nerve to call somebody else ugly — not that Calhoun was going to win any beauty contests.

      Of course, he did it in the course of saying he thought all this renaming was a little silly…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    This is kind of ironic:

    MPR says in its statement that the station and its owner, American Public Media, will no longer distribute Writer’s Almanac and will stop rebroadcasting The Best Of A Prairie Home Companion. In addition, new episodes of A Prairie Home Companion — now hosted by Chris Thile — will be given a new name….

    This is super ironic. Just this week, I went back and added a comment to this old post headlined “I miss Garrison Keillor.” I said in the comment that I still haven’t warmed up to Chris Thile. And then I said this:

    I don’t begrudge this Thile guy having this nice, weekly gig. He has fans (from the bands he’s been in, not from anything having to do with humor or story-telling), and they enjoy him.

    But they should call the show something else. As long as it’s still billed as “Prairie Home Companion,” it’s just too disappointing…

    Kind of weird that it would happen this way, and so soon after I wrote that.

    It saddens me that I won’t get to hear any of the old shows any more, whatever Keillor has done.

    We are told that Keillor was licentious. If it were so, then it was a grievous fault, and grievously hath Keillor answered it.

    But erasing everything he did from the public sphere? That gets a little creepy. It makes me think of 1984. What he did was definitely double-plus ungood, but should he become an unperson?

    1. Mr. Smith

      America sometimes has outbursts of puritanical excess and I get the feeling we may be slipping toward that now. These things may start out legitimately, exposing real problems, but then lose track of all boundaries so that everything, even the most innocent act, is considered beyond the pale. And then it’s not long before we start doing what the Soviets used to do when they’d air-brush individuals from photographs after they fell into disfavor. That may be what’s happening with everything Keillor now.

  3. Doug Ross

    I’m reserving judgment on this one until I hear more details (unlike Matt Lauer who appears to have a long, long history of bad behavior that NBC covered up).

    Here’s Keillor’s explanation:
    “In an email to the Star Tribune on 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.””

    If that’s what cost him his job, we’re going a little too far now. But I’ll wait and see.

    I like Keillor’s books very much. Never got into Prairie Home Companion. Too folksy for me…

  4. Karen Pearson

    If what Mr Keillor says is true, then we have a very foolish woman, whose accusation will give all too many an excuse to say that women mostly fabricate this behavior. It’s long been the claim of those accused, and unfortunately, they are the ones who are ultimately believed. I’m not saying that all who have been accused are necessarily guilty, but when you have others corroborating the story, and/or bringing their own accusations forward I tend to think that there probably is something to it.

  5. JesseS

    Earlier this week I was wondering if something was brewing when the guests were announced. Trey Anastasio, The Staves, and Tig Notaro (Live from Denver!). Under Keillor it would have been the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Iris DeMent (Live from Topeka!). The show is clearly going somewhere else.

    I’ve talked to a few white menials who have a burning hate for A Prairie Home Companion; a hate that always struck me as borderline irrational, but given this maybe they were right. It’s so rural and folksy and way too rose colored glasses for the past. Why do they want to go back to the 50s? Do they like segregation? Where were the representations of minorities in his stories about life in small town Minnesota? Bet the KKK is pretty big in Lake Wobegone. Part of me paused and part of me wondered if it’s what the fascist call Virtue Signaling.

    So MPR’s “burn it with fire” approach kind of makes sense, even if I don’t feel totally comfortable with it, not just in a social justice sense, but a pragmatic one. I’ve joked to myself for years that it was only a matter of time before Trent Reznor did A Prairie Home Companion and I supposed (barring any sexual allegations) he will, but under a different name. The old must die to make way for …the middle aged, white bourgeoisie.

    As far as Keillor, I dunno. Even if defensive, he has always been kinda open that he lost his mind a bit when he had a mid-life crisis. Remember when he killed A Prairie Home Companion, got divorced, and moved to Copenhagen only to restart the show as The American Radio Company? He was pretty honest that it was him wanting to be young, culturally meaningful, and yes, as much as no one wants to think about it, sexually desirable. He is human after all and we are sexual creatures.

    Not that it excuses his actions. At 28 I’d have given it a pass. At 38 I can’t. There is a fundamental sin I couldn’t see at that age.

    When you touch a woman and she cringes either you totally goofed or you had some kind of sexual intent. If I’ve ever done the former, I had no idea I did it. For the latter I thought I’ve gotten the wrong signal before. She was interested, so I was flirting back. Why on Earth would I think that would be OK with my hands? (And no, I’ve never gone into “Trump” territory, it was back touching and a bit worse. Nothing THAT bad.) It retrospect it was rationalizing. It was making excuses for bad behavior.

    Looking back, I had to admit something I didn’t want to admit. Something that was obvious, but I couldn’t look it in the eye because I deluded myself into thinking I was too good of a person for that. I really didn’t like those women. It wasn’t because they were women, it was because they were people I didn’t like. They “flirted”, I flirted back, but in a way that showed disrespect and even gave me the tiniest bit of empowerment that relieved my insecurities for a half second. I didn’t even realize it at the time and didn’t even give it a lot of serious thought. It had been building in my head for years and then #metoo happened. When women I know and deeply respect started relaying their stories that ranged from back touching in a bar, to comments about their bodies, to pats on the rear end, to cat calling, to demands for sex to keep their job, to being literally beaten and raped.

    Yes, the back touch doesn’t have parity with rape, but that isn’t the point. If I really respected “those women”, it never would have happened. It would have been a goof. Why? Because I never would have allowed that to happen to someone I respected. That is the heart of it all: respect.

    That is the real problem. If Keillor goofed he never would have voluntarily apologized via e-mail in the first place. He either would have never noticed what happened or he would have said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I really, really did not mean that in that way” the moment she recoiled. But nah, he probably thought “maybe this might work” and long after it didn’t he decided to break out the duct tape.

    1. Scout

      As I said before, I’m still reserving judgement. Doesn’t seem like we have all the information here.

      But….”If Keillor goofed he never would have voluntarily apologized via e-mail in the first place. He either would have never noticed what happened or he would have said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I really, really did not mean that in that way” the moment she recoiled. ”

      I’m not necessarily seeing the problem you do here. The story seems plausible. He did say he apologized at the time. If it really was an accident and the woman really did react so strongly, I don’t think an additional email apology is that unusual. People who were not trying to offend but clearly did and who care about other people’s feelings do that sort of thing.

      Again, we would need to hear the other side of the story before having an idea what actually happened – but on it’s face, the story itself is plausible to me.

    2. John

      Jesse S wrote “When you touch a woman and she cringes either you totally goofed or you had some kind of sexual intent.”


      Would you say the same about a woman touching a man?

      I read what Garrison Keillor wrote about the incident. He was trying to make an appropriate gesture to someone who was telling him something sad. He missed, apparently because “her shirt was open” which would not even be his fault. She cringed; he apologized twice; she assured him it was not a problem. You call this “totally goofed” or “sexual intent”? It was neither.

      Shall we believe the part where she accuses him, or the part where she tells him it was not a problem? Oh, I know: Always believe it when a woman accuses a man; never believe it if she says it was not a problem. We’ve got to get with the program: empower women, stomp on men.

      It would have been worse if, when being confided to in sadness, he could not even try to make the appropriate touch.

      But now after being harrassed about it, maybe he won’t even try to make an appropriate touch to a woman ever again. If so, that would be a shame, and a loss of humanity. As for me, I can go years without touching a woman, even though I’m a heterosexual male. Upon seeing how Keillor (and others) is being treated, I may go several years more, and find ways to reduce all contact with women; it’s not worth the trouble to have anything to do with women if they can do like this that they’re doing to Keillor.

      Fortunately for me, I’m retired with options to live however I like. So I may actually be able to construct a life with a very small probability of being ruined by some woman.

      Women touch lots of times; it’s usually considered natural when _they_ do it. But women do not have a copyright on touching; they just act as though they do, so that touches by women are regarded as natural, while touches by men are regarded as perversions.

      Keillor says he’s gotten lots of _inappropriate_ touches he didn’t want from women; shall we ruin those women’s careers and bury their life work because they “totally goofed” or had “sexual intent”? No, of course not; that would be irrational, cruel, and dehumanizing — but it’s alright to do that to men, especially if it’s women doing it to them. Welcome to the new world, where women get revenge upon present-day men, for all the wrongs that any other men have ever done to women anywhere anytime in history.

      The following ideas have been attributed to different kinds of feminists: that everyone gets one free pass (attributed to Gloria Steinem) and that all men are rapists and that’s all they are (attributed to Marilyn French). The “one free pass” idea, which should apply equally to both men and women, is a vision of a sane society. If you think about it, obviously some acts, mislabeled as “passes”, might be so bad they would not qualify. But the general idea of “one free pass” is at least a good attempt to visualize a sane society.

      The “all men are rapists and that’s all they are” idea pretty much throws in the towel, giving up on ever having a sane society.

      From personal knowledge I know that men are many things, and are not all rapists. I know also that women are many things and are not all liars.


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