Wed. 2:30 p.m.: Garrison Keillor fired, says he put hand on woman’s back

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Garrison Keillor, the former host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” said Wednesday he has been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of what the network called improper behavior.

Keillor 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.”

Keillor didn’t detail the allegation to AP, but in an email to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Keillor said he had put his hand on a woman’s bare back in an attempt to console her.

“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,” Keillor told the newspaper. “We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called.”

Minnesota Public Radio confirmed Keillor had been fired, saying it received a single allegation against Keillor about “inappropriate behavior” and didn’t know of any other allegations.

The firing Wednesday came shortly after Keillor, an avowed Democrat, wrote a syndicated column that ridiculed the idea that Sen. Al Franken should resign over allegations of sexual harassment.

In his statement to AP, Keillor said it was “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 retired as host of the long-running public radio variety show in 2016. His hand-picked successor, mandolinist Chris Thile, is in his second season as “Prairie Home” host. After Keillor retired, he continued to work with MPR on other projects.

MPR also said the name of the show, produced and distributed nationwide by American Public Media, would be changed. The show has been named “A Prairie Home Companion” for more than 40 years. MPR also said it will end distribution of “The Writer’s Almanac,” Keillor’s daily reading of a poem and telling of literary events, and end rebroadcasts of “The Best of A Prairie Home Companion” hosted by Keillor.