Just as in any war, the battle against sexual harassment in the workplace brings collateral damage.
And although director Woody Allen is a skeevy perv, we have to admit that his warning that the admirable fight to protect working women could morph into a witch hunt is now coming true.
Take Garrison Keillor, whose popular radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” was once heard by some 4 million people each Sunday. He was fired this week from Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) after an allegation of inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him.
Said Keillor: “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.”
And he went on in his statement to say: “Anyone who ever was around my show can tell you that I was the least physically affection 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.”
Now, we don’t know the veracity of the allegation against him, but so far — unlike nearly all the others, like movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and “Today” show host Matt Lauer — no other woman has come forward to allege other inappropriate behavior by Keillor.
“Based on what we currently know, there are no similar allegations involving other staff,” MPR said, noting the alleged incident occurred last month.
But we do know that Keillor is plenty peeved about working his whole life and, at age 75, watching his hard-fought reputation disappear in a flash.
“It’s astonishing that 50 years of hard work can be trashed in a morning by an accusation,” Keillor wrote Wednesday on Facebook. “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 another message to Facebook friends, Keillor said he had a “good conversation” with his wife about what 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.”
But we should note that Keillor responded in just the way you would expect the avuncular, soft-spoken man from “Prairie Companion” would. In another post, he said, “I am sorry for all the poets whose work I won’t be reading on the radio and 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.”
The war against sexual predators may have just taken down an innocent man.