In Vermont, Keillor finds onetime fans not ready to forgive

Garrison Keillor will remain persona non grata in Vermont after a book festival where he was scheduled to appear pulled the plug on a fundraiser.

The Burlington Book Festival decision came after significant online pushback, mostly from women, to Keillor’s inclusion. Last November, American Public Media cut ties with Keillor, citing inappropriate contact with a female member of his staff.

Keillor offered to attend the Vermont book festival for free, according to its organizer.

“I talked to my wife, I talked to some friends,” Rick Kisonak tells Vermont Public Radio, “and you know we just, we kind of came to the conclusion that it was an offer that we probably shouldn’t refuse.”

“If the person has for most of his life, you know, done good work and been a good person and has been an incredibly important contributor to an area of the culture that I care very, very profoundly about, wants to try to make amends by showing support for a little literary festival by the lake and go to all the trouble to come here and, as I say, face whatever music awaits — I just felt like ‘OK,” Kisonak told VPR.

It’s not OK, many women said.

“Women have opportunities to discuss these issues literally every single day, so giving this man a platform when so many survivors have been silenced for so long is disgraceful,” said Rebecca Cross, one of those who joined in the calls for cancellation.

Initially, Kisonak pushed back — hard — in response.

It has come as a considerable shock that some have been so quick and careless in conflating his recent history with that of people like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein. Garrison Keillor is not a sexual predator. We’re all people who place great importance on the value of words. Can we agree that the difference between ‘predatory’ and ‘inappropriate’ is considerable and significant?

I have never invited a sexual predator to the Burlington Book Festival and never would. I don’t condone the inappropriate treatment of women. Never for a minute was it my intention to be insensitive to survivors of sexual mistreatment or abuse. Other than responsibly generating revenue for my nonprofit organization, my only interests were in providing Garrison Keillor’s fans with the opportunity to see him while, at the same time, hopefully opening the channel for a conversation with the potential to illuminate, investigate and possibly even heal.

It’s a bad choice — particularly now — for men to be lecturing women on the degree to which sexual harassment should be tolerated. The organizer’s response came off as tone deaf.

“When so many survivors of assault and harassment have been silenced because their harasser had power over them (as Keillor did over his victims), it’s disgraceful of you to allow a perpetrator to speak at your festival,” Cross responded. “Your statement here does not show any understanding of what survivors are going through right now or any sensitivity toward us.”

Late last evening, the Festival threw in the towel.

“No insensitivity to anyone was ever the intent,” Kisonak wrote in an email to VPR. “But the unexpected reaction on social media made it apparent some people viewed his booking as our condoning of sexual harassment. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

  • ec99

    At some point Gary believed his press clippings. Believed he was the new Mark Twain, and thought Garrison was a much more sophisticated name. And he apparently believed he could treat anyone how he wanted to; whether it be women or neighbors.

  • Rob

    //The organizer’s response came off as tone-deaf.// Yup.

  • Jeff C.

    > “No insensitivity to anyone was ever the intent,”

    Duh. But that’s not the point. People aren’t complaining about what you intended to do. People are complaining because of what you *did do*. You were insensitive. Acknowledge it and apologize, Recognize that you made a mistake. Realize that when Garrison chose to use his power (which comes with fame) in harassing ways, he risked loosing that power if he was caught abusing that power. Just as you wouldn’t put an accountant who stole money in charge of your businesses’ finances, you shouldn’t put a one-famous person who abused the power that comes with fame back in the spotlight again were he can gain fame (and power) again.

  • Sonny T

    it’s also chauvinist, but I wanted to be nice

  • Gary F

    How is his health? He had a stroke a few years ago.

    • Rob

      I’m sure there’s a celebrity health update site somewhere. Do a little reseearch and report back.

    • >>He had a stroke a few years ago.<<

      And that's what got him into trouble.

      /I'll see myself out.

  • Sonny T

    Got no idea what yer talking about. I was commenting on logical fallacies

    • RBHolb

      It’s not a fallacy–logical or otherwise–to note that a person’s gender might affect their view of gender dynamics in the workplace. Deciding whether something is offensive is done through the filter of one’s own background, biases, and experience.

      • Sonny T

        It’s a fallacy. Thank you Mr. Wright and high school debate class

  • Sonny T

    Suffice to say discounting a person’s argument based on their group affiliation is simply irrational. And if that group is race, gender, creed, etc. Mr. Wright would rip you a new one

    • Rob

      Not at all. Discounting men’s attempts to define or presume what a woman’s perspectives/experiences/realities are or should be is merely giving men’s misogynistic behavior the treatment it deserves.

      • Sonny T

        But you’re attacking the messenger, not the argument, which is irrational

        • Rob

          If a messenger makes a misogynistic argument, the messenger deserves opprobrium.

        • RBHolb

          It is not irrational to point out a person’s bias. One of the first things you learn when learning how to cross examine a witness is that their bias is one way of impeaching credibility (“You’re being paid to testify here today, aren’t you, Dr. Feelgood?”).

          Mr. Wright may have been thinking of the argument ad hominem, where a person’s character is attacked to show that an argument is false (“[A]t last Johnson observed, that ‘he did not care to speak ill of any man behind his back, but he believed the gentleman was an attorney’.”).

  • Sonny T

    ouch. Still a fallacy though

    • I don’t really understand this thread but I’ll just point out that a significant problem isn’t that men don’t understand/accept the perspective of women. It’s that many men feel empowered by privilege to tell women what perspective they should have.

      It’s rather absurd.

      • Sonny T

        Well of course. But we’re wandering away from the basic principle. It’s the argument you want to attack, not the messenger.

        • Again, I don’t really understand what the definitions are here. What are you using to define what the argument is. Who is it you see as the messenger?

          • Sonny T

            see: yosh, above. yosh is the messenger. The post is the argument.

          • Not really. He’s not relaying someone else’s message. That Keillor is paying too high a price is HIS message.

            and the fact he lit the fuse and left tells me he’s trolling today

          • Sonny T

            It makes no difference where the message, or argument comes from. It must be disputed on its merits. Not those of the messenger.

          • Again, you’re invoking a clause (don’t shoot the messenger) that is irrelevant. Your point is only relevant if the messenger is only delivering someone else’s message.

            If the person with a belief has a belief that is tied uniquely to a reproductive function, it’s legitimate to point that out and to suggest that the lack of ability to see another perspective is directly related to that.

          • Sonny T

            Nope. It’s not. It might seem legitimate, but that is the basis of fallacy. It seems logical, but it’s not.

            I wouldn’t have said anything to Laurie K in the first place, but it deserved comment. There’s plenty of “You’re wrong because you’re stupid” thinking out there. Or “You’re wrong because you’re a Republican, or Democrat, or spoiled, or lazy, or (fill in the blank). But when you attack a post based on the person’s gender or race or age that’s not just illogical. It’s bigotry.

          • People are wrong not because they’re stupid. They’re wrong because they’re ignorant. Too many men are ignorant about the daily dread of being a woman in a man’s world. Too many men are afraid to death of the possibility that societal enlightenment will lead to a loss of their considerable privilege. That’s how you end up with conversations like this one.

          • Sonny T

            All this may be correct, but it’s extraneous flak, with all respect.
            Again, a statement is not wrong because of what you are.

            Mr. Wright could have told you this, but sadly, is no longer with us. He is drawing syllogisms on blackboards in heaven. Maybe run this by someone else, see what they say

          • Laurie K.

            You’ve run it by everyone here and you seem to not be getting the response you are looking for. I learned a lot in high school and will forever be grateful to many of my teachers. However, I have also learned that some of what I was taught back in high school no longer holds true. Maybe it’s time to move on Sonny T.

  • Send it to the set of “Live From Here with Chris Thile”


    • theoacme

      Along with the Turtle Wax, the Rice-a-Roni, and the Kentucky Fried Chicken (as the tune from “The $20,000 Pyramid” plays, of course)…

  • ec99

    I never understood Minnesotans’ love affair with Gary. His narratives of small-town life were more mockery than humor. This from a guy who would fit better in a co-op on the upper east side of Manhattan across from Central Park.

    • RBHolb

      Condescension reeled off in a drawl.

      Remember when he tried to make it in New York? His “innocent Midwesterner in the wilds of Manhattan” routine got old really, really fast. Unfortunately, that was all he had. A one-shtick pony if ever there was one.

  • Carol Douglass

    Having been subjected to sexual taunts, groping, belittling, even rape since the age of 13, and having understood that it was my job to “react gracefully” and not mind because it’s just part of being female, I thoroughly understand the pain of millions, if not ALL women, that’s finally being revealed.
    Even so, I can see that some men’s lifelong reputations and careers are being ruined, and even understand how unfair it must feel.
    However–with the election as president of a man who is totally without respect for women, whose disgusting behavior and rants reach new lows every day–I think that and the arrogance and cruelty among his followers it has exposed have been the proverbial Last Straw.
    Just as during the Civil Rights movement, the Suffragist movement, various revolutions and other social upheavals demanding and resulting in change, there comes a day when the weight of oppression/gross unfairness becomes more than can be borne.
    And then, the tides of change will engulf everyone who has participated in that oppression, whatever the degree of guilt. I think that is unavoidable and is what we are seeing now.
    It behooves every man, every citizen at large, to look closely at the culture of contempt society operates on. Look at how many groups of people, thrown together as one entity, are held in contempt by another group–poor people, highly educated people, uneducated people, people with more skin pigment than you have, people from this region or that, people who are female, people with the wrong body shape–pick one, you know you can find a group you hate…
    Now it’s finally women’s turn to give voice to the repressed rage of lifetimes. Whether you’ve been inappropriate (Keillor) or criminal (Weinstein), you’re going down. That’s the price society pays for treating any group too badly for too long.