Radio host Garrison Keillor fired over accusation of ‘inappropriate behaviour’

Writer’s sacking follows NBC’s dismissal of Matt Lauer after sexual harassment claim

 

NBC News fired popular Today show host Matt Lauer after a colleague accused him of inappropriate sexual behaviour, the US TV network said on Wednesday, making him yet another rich and powerful man to be felled this year by accusations of harassment.

His termination sent shockwaves through US morning television, where Lauer has been a fixture since becoming a Today anchor in 1997, going on to reportedly earn $20 million (€16.8 million) a year.

The married 59-year-old news star was the latest public figure to be embroiled in allegations of sexual misconduct that have recently struck down high-profile men in entertainment, politics and media.

Just hours later, it emerged that US radio host Garrison Keillor had been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over an accusation of inappropriate behaviour.

“Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) is terminating its contracts with Garrison Keillor and his private media companies after recently learning of allegations of his inappropriate behaviour with an individual who worked with him,” the organisation said in a statement. It gave no details.

The Associated Press reported that Keillor said in an email he was fired over “a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard”, but he gave no details.

Keillor (75), an author and humorist, is best known as the creator of A Prairie Home Companion, which he hosted from 1974 to 2016. MPR said it would end rebroadcasts of The Best of A Prairie Home Companion, hosted by Keillor, as well as distribution and broadcast of his show The Writer’s Almanac.

It said the allegation related to Keillor’s time as a producer of A Prairie Home Companion. MPR was notified last month and retained an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation. “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,” Jon McTaggart, president of MPR, said in the statement.

Lauer complaint

The complaint made against Matt Lauer by an unnamed female colleague on Monday night related to a “clear violation” by the TV host of the company’s standards, NBC News chairman Andrew Lack said in a statement.

“While it is the first complaint about his behaviour in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident,” Mr Lack said.

Lauer’s agent Ken Lindner did not respond to requests for comment.

The news was announced by Today co-anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb at the start of the talk show, a staple of US morning television for more than six decades that, NBC says, averages more than four million viewers.

“We just learned this moments ago just this morning,” Guthrie said, visibly shaken. “As I’m sure you can imagine we are devastated.”

Mr Lack’s statement did not say who made the accusation, but promised that NBC News would cover Lauer’s firing in “as transparent a manner as we can.”

The woman had met with New York Times reporters on Monday before meeting with NBC’s human resources and legal departments that evening to share her allegation, the newspaper reported, saying that she said she was not ready then to publicly identify herself.

The woman’s Washington-based lawyer, Ari Wilkenfeld, said the meeting with NBC officials lasted several hours.

“In fewer than 35 hours, NBC investigated and removed Mr Lauer,” Mr Wilkenfeld wrote in a statement. “Our impression at this point is that NBC acted quickly, as all companies should, when confronted with credible allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace.”

The complaint said the sexual misconduct occurred while Lauer and the female colleague were covering the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics in Russia, NBC News reporter Stephanie Gosk said on air.

The misconduct continued after the games, Gosk said. An NBC representative did not respond to a request for more details.

Comcast Corp, the largest US cable television company, owns NBCUniversal. Its shares rose 2.4 percent to $37.13.

Today earned $509 million in advertising revenue last year, more than any of its competitors, New York-based analysts Kantar Media said.

Lauer joined Today in 1994 and has interviewed presidents George Bush and Barack Obama and broadcast from seven Olympic Games. He had been due to join his co-hosts for the nationally-televised lighting of the giant Christmas tree at New York City’s Rockefeller Center on Wednesday night.

Trump tweet

According to Fortune magazine, he signed a two-year deal in 2016 that would pay him $20 million per year.

US president Donald Trump responded with messages on Twitter calling for some of Lauer’s colleagues to be fired too, and adding to his recent attacks against US news outlets for their reporting on his administration.

“Wow,” Trump wrote about Lauer. “But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-Republican candidate Trump was accused by 13 women who publicly said that in the past he had physically touched them inappropriately in some way, the Washington Post reported.

Mr Trump denied the accusations, accused rival Democrats and the media of a smear campaign, and went on to win the election. – Reuters