Why I’m Boycotting PBS and Minnesota Public Radio

Let’s be clear. I completely support the “Me , too” movement that is currently happening. It is in fact long, long overdue. No woman, and no child, and no man for that matter, should ever have to endure the harassment abuse and violation that these horrible stories have revealed. At the very least the victims of these horrible acts must be able to speak their truth and know that they will be heard, and listened to, and not be dismissed out of hand. We must move away from the paradigm of female accusers being ignored and male accused being vindicated.

The paradigm that we move to, however, must be one listening to all sides, discovering the truth, and pursuing justice. We must not go to the equally heinous paradigm of automatically believing the accusers and condemning the accused. Yet this is exactly what seems to be happening in two cases.

Sometime around last Thanksgiving Minnesota Public Radio (aka American Public Media) announced that it was cutting all ties with Garrison Keillor, famed former host of A Prairie Home Companion. The reason given was alleged sexual misconduct, with no further details. Keillor related an episode from years ago of inadvertent and unintentional physical contact with a lady for which he immediately apologized. The apology was, according to Keillor, immediately accepted. Nevertheless he followed up with a further apology via email. He was reassured that no offense had been taken. That was the last he heard about the incident- until he was recently contacted by a lawyer about it.

That’s Keillor’s side of the story. Minnesota Public Radio’s side of the story? Well, I’m still waiting to hear it. They say they are satisfied with the results of an alleged investigation, which has not to date been made public, and that we simply have to trust them.

Again, let’s be very clear. I am not arguing for Keillor’s innocence. Rather, I am very disturbed that a not-for-profit public media corporation, whose core purpose ought to be to DISCOVER the truth, is opting instead to leave the truth covered up. So around Thanksgiving last year, I stopped listening to A Prairie Home Companion and any other program produced by Minnesota Public Radio.

Then I heard about PBS and Tavis Smiley. Smiley is the producer and host of a talk show that was distributed by PBS and also broadcast on NPR- until December. PBS announced that it would cease distributing Smiley’s show due to complaints against him about inappropriate workplace relationships. Again, there was supposedly an investigation, but again none of the results were made public. PBS would not even discuss their decision with Smiley until he threatened a lawsuit. That produced a 3 hour interview with him where the names of his accusers were still withheld.

I’m not talking about withholding the names of the accusers from the general public, which is quite often justified. The names of Smiley’s accusers were withheld from Smiley himself.

For Smiley’s part, he admits that he has had workplace relationships before, even with subordinates. He insists that these relationships were completely consensual and that there was no coercion or harassment of any kind. Maybe this is true. Or maybe Smiley genuinely believes he is innocent but is unaware of how he is actually hurting people. Or maybe Smiley is a lying, disgusting pervert. The point is, I don’t know. The data I need to make an informed judgment is being withheld from me.

It’s as if, in 1974 Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein wrote a column in the Washington Post basically saying, “President Richard Nixon is a really bad person and should be impeached. We’re not going to publish anything to back this up, but it’s true. Trust us.”

Well, I can’t trust PBS, NPR, or Minnesota Public Radio anymore. They used to be my most trusted sources of news. I’m not sure what to do now. But given what little information I have, until someone somewhere gives me something more, the only opinion I can rationally support is that Garrison Keillor and Tavis Smiley are innocent, and the powers that be at PBS and Minnesota Public Radio are either willfully malicious or just plain stupid.