Commercial radio may have the reputation for raunchy morning shows, but it is public radio where #MeToo allegations have cut the deepest. Accusations of wrongdoing have roiled staffs at stations in New York, Washington and Phoenix in recent years. And now Minneapolis is home to a controversy. Minnesota Public Radio arts reporter Marianne Combs abruptly announced her decision to exit MPR on Monday. She said her decision came after management refused to broadcast a story she spent ten weeks working on about an air personality at adult alternative sister station “89.3 The Current” KCMP.
“I gathered testimony from eight women who say that he sexually manipulated and psychologically abused them,” said Combs in a string of Twitter posts. “Their experiences span fifteen years and describe a man who preyed on younger, sexually inexperienced women. These women encountered him while he was working at other local radio stations; they are concerned that he is now using his status as a DJ at ‘The Current’ to attract and further torment young women.”
In the 19 messages posted by Combs she did not identify the air personality who the allegations have surfaced against. But she said the man was fired from a previous job where he had contact with children.
Combs said she presented a draft of her story to MPR’s editors and legal counsel for review. And while the attorneys apparently cleared the story to run, station management did not. “They have countered that the DJ’s actions were, for the most part, legal, and therefore don’t rise to the level of warranting news coverage,” she said. “They described him as ‘a real creep,’ but worried that airing a story about his behavior would invite a lawsuit.” The unnamed staffer remains at work at KCMP.
Combs, who worked at MPR for 23 years, said it was not the first time the broadcaster has “neglected” stories about the abuse of women. MPR has not yet commented on her accusations.
This isn’t the first time MPR has found itself at the center of a sexual harassment allegation. Two years ago the public radio staple “A Prairie Home Companion” came to a screeching halt when host Garrison Keillor was accused of having dozens of sexually inappropriate incidents over several years, including requests for sexual contact and explicit sexual communications and touching.
The problem isn’t isolated to Minnesota. New York Public Radio WNYC fired two of its biggest names in Dec. 2017. In Phoenix, Jim Paluzzi retired as VP/GM of KJZZ/KBAQ in 2019 after allegations that he sexually harassed three employees. More recently, WAMU Washington (88.5) has been roiled by allegations about former WAMU transportation reporter Martin Di Caro. How the investigation was conducted at WAMU last week cost Chief Content Officer Andi McDaniel her new job as President of WBEZ Chicago (91.5).
It is not just public radio that has been impacted by #MeToo. The biggest media shakeup came at CBS two years ago when then-CEO Les Moonves was fired for alleged misconduct.