In an attempt to distance itself from longtime host Garrison Keillor—who was fired from Minnesota Public Radio last week for “inappropriate behavior”—the long-running radio show Prairie Home Companion is being renamed. On Saturday nights at 7 p.m. ET, public radio listeners will now tune in to Town Hall. Keillor retired as host of the folksy radio variety show, which he had hosted since 1974, at the end of 2016. That’s when musician Chris Thile took over, and frankly Thile has been doing an outstanding, charming job, confidently juggling the jokes and skits and twangy musical guests the program is known for. Even better, Thile can actually sing, which makes him a far cry from Keillor’s gruff warble that he inflicted on listeners for decades.
Last week, MPR released a statement saying that the allegations against Keillor stem from Keillor’s conduct when he was hosting A Prairie Home Companion and that the firing followed an independent investigation by outside legal council. Although Keillor had already left what’s now called Town Hall, MPR also plans to cut all of its business ties to Keillor’s media company, including the programs The Writer’s Almanac and The Best Of A Prairie Home Companion Hosted By Garrison Keillor, as well as Keillor’s Pretty Good Goods merchandise site and PrairieHome.org. Keillor owns the “Prairie Home Companion” copyright, which is likely a major reason for the name change.
Keillor quickly responded to his dismissal with a post on his website, saying:
I’ve been fired over a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard. Most stories are. It’s some sort of poetic irony to be knocked off the air by a story, having told so many of them myself, but 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.
I am sorry for all the poets whose work I won’t be reading on the radio and sorry for the people who will lose work on account of this.
Thile also reacted on Twitter after the Keillor firing was announced:
CORRECTION: Reuters has corrected its story on the show formerly known as A Prairie Home Companion, saying that Thile’s greeting at the top of last week’s show— “Coming to you live from New York City, welcome to Town Hall”—was misinterpreted as the show’s new name. We also misinterpreted the greeting, and regret the error.