By Laura Yuen & Euan Kerr
On Nov. 2, Jon McTaggart, the CEO of Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media Group, posted an all-staff memo expressing his disgust and outrage over reports of an NPR news executive who sexually harassed women.
The news of how NPR handled the allegations in Washington — a process that NPR’s top official admitted was slower and less forceful than it should have been — had rattled some of McTaggart’s employees in St. Paul.
“I can tell you how the APM Group would address this kind of situation,” McTaggart wrote in the memo. “I want to be very clear — we do not tolerate harassment of any kind. Providing a safe and respectful workplace for every employee in the APM Group is an absolute priority. When informed of a similar circumstance, we would immediately investigate any allegations.”
What has since become apparent is that even as he made those statements, McTaggart was in the process of dealing with allegations of inappropriate behavior at MPR. None other than Garrison Keillor, a public radio pioneer who brought wealth and national cachet to the company, had been accused of abusing his power over a woman who worked for him.
“The overall vibe was, ‘Garrison’s the cash cow. They’re going to let him get away with whatever he wants.'”
When McTaggart shared his note with employees, he had in his possession a 12-page letter from an attorney representing the woman. That letter, dated Oct. 22, alleged dozens of sexually inappropriate incidents involving the retired radio host. The allegations had prompted MPR to launch an independent outside investigation.
By the end of November, after investigators came back with preliminary findings, McTaggart had decided to cut ties with the man whose name for decades had been synonymous with Minnesota Public Radio. With that decision, the online archives of Keillor’s work were removed from MPR’s website. Public access to those archives will resume later this month under a deal announced last Friday. The agreement also specifies that MPR and Keillor will not sue each other.
McTaggart does not apologize for the abruptness of his decision to cut ties with Keillor, nor for the possible damage it caused to Keillor’s livelihood, legacy and place in MPR history. For any employees who might have missed McTaggart’s memo, the broadcast company’s uncoupling from its biggest star served notice that MPR would treat allegations of sexual harassment seriously.
But the picture McTaggart tried to paint — of an MPR that makes a safe, respectful workplace its highest priority — is blurred by several complicating factors. Among them …
(Commoner Call art by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )