Garrison Keillor described sexually suggestive emails he exchanged with a researcher who accused him of sexual misconduct as "romantic writing," and rejected the idea that because he was her boss it could be sexual harassment. The woman responded, via her attorney, that Keillor's power over her job made her afraid to say no. In one of his first interviews since Minnesota Public Radio cut ties over the allegations against the former "A Prairie Home Companion" host in November, Keillor said he never had a sexual relationship with the woman, a freelance contributor to the show. "No button was unbuttoned and no zipper was unzipped," Keillor told the AP. "I never kissed her ... This was a flirtation between two writers that took place in writing. I had no control over her whatsoever. She worked at home." The woman said Keillor "had the power to provide or take away job assignments and opportunities. He also acknowledged several times that power imbalance between us."
"He was my mentor and employer," she said. "As such, he had power over me. Every time I said 'no' or tried to avoid him I feared I was saying 'no' to my future." MPR spokeswoman Angie Andresen said "our decision was not based on flirtations or fantasies, but based on facts confirming unacceptable behavior in the workplace by a person in a position of power." Keillor's attorneys allowed the AP to view hundreds of emails between Keillor and the woman dating from 2004 to 2017. Some were work-related, but many were personal, and some were overtly sexual. The tone began changing in 2013, as the pair began sharing more about their lives and signing off by saying they loved and missed each other. By 2014 and 2015, the emails became more amorous. They both shared wishes or fantasies of being intimate, sometimes in detail. Keillor was married at the time and still is. "I agree that there are adolescent passages in there, but there were some by her and some by me," he said.