You might know Nora McInerny of Minneapolis for her books on the messiness, humor, and societal expectations surrounding loss. You might know her for her extremely popular (and uncomfortably honest) podcast, Terrible, Thanks for Asking. Or you might know her for her nonprofit, Still Kickin, which provides financial support for “awesome people going through awful things.”
But one place you won’t see her byline anymore is Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, where she was, until very recently, a columnist.
On Monday, McInerny took to Twitter to announce she’d no longer be working with the Twin Cities lifestyle magazine. The reason, she said, was because of its January 2020 cover story: a feature called “Hindsight 20/20,” centering on former A Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor.
Minnesota Public Radio cut ties with Keillor after he was accused of “inappropriate behavior” with a colleague. He claimed he’d only put a hand on her back to console her and apologized after she “recoiled.” An investigation by MPR, however, uncovered a “years-long pattern” of allegations against Keillor – women being paid for their silence, becoming the subjects of ribald, un-charming limericks, and enduring “habitual” bullying and humiliation.
Now, like many of the men brought down temporarily by the #MeToo movement, Keillor has begun to creep back into the spotlight. McInerny called his reappearance on the cover of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine—glancing soulfully downward and removing his glasses, as if in a moment of weary honesty with the viewer—a “privilege afforded to a certain kind of man.”
“And when we prioritize the documentation of a powerful man because of his *art* or his culture impact or or or—we tell women and survivors everywhere a powerful message,” she wrote. “We confirm that HE is more interesting, more worth documenting and analyzing, than the impact of his actions.”
In her Twitter thread, McInerny said she was given “24 hours” to contribute her “point of view” on the story in a sort of “roundup” addendum—all without being given access to the piece itself. She said she encouraged editorial staff to “think of the impact” focusing on Keillor would have on survivors of harassment and assault.
“I’m so sorry my words did nothing,” she said.
It’s not the first time McInerny has been openly critical of Keillor. She was a contractor with American Public Media while he was still a radio host. Back in 2017, after his firing, she wrote a piece for Time saying it was high time anyway that Keillor stepped aside and left some airtime for someone else—people more diverse than the stock characters from Keillor’s beloved (and fictional) Lake Wobegon. That change is uncomfortable and mostly unrewarding, but still necessary.
“It’s been 50 years, dude,” she wrote. “Let the rest of us have a turn.”
He responded to the critique on Twitter by putting McInerny’s name in a blandly crude limerick.
“I guess Donald Trump isn’t the only one who reflexively responds to criticism by belittling *women* after trolling for comments about himself he wasn’t tagged in by pages he doesn’t follow,” she tweeted shortly afterward. “Just another day in the womanhood.”
As McInerny herself pointed out in her announcement thread, it’s not always possible for women to leave a job where they feel harassed or unfairly treated. With a platform and financial security like hers, she can, so she is. There are, she said, other places she can write.
McInerny wasn’t immediately available for comment, but Jayne Haugen Olson, the magazine's editor in chief, says the commentary hasn’t changed the magazine’s feelings on deciding to run Keillor on the cover.
“Nora resigned on a call with me and our executive editor on November 26 after we contacted her alerting her to Keillor being in the issue,” Olson said via email. She said after the call, they followed up with an email letting her know they’d “heard her” and thought the readers would also benefit from hearing from her, and asked if she’d like to file a new column for January with a “three-day deadline.”
“We did not ask her to be part of the cover package,” she said.
Regardless, McInerny declined.
Olson said ultimately “subscribers and newsstand buyers” will decide if the piece is “compelling or relevant,” and that “change comes from understanding topics from many perspectives so we can learn.”
“What’s disappointing to me is that Nora could have used her column in our magazine to share her valuable perspective to a broader audience—not just one month, but through the duration of her contract.”
McInerny has several of her own platforms for that. Her thread has been liked thousands of times and retweeted by hundreds of people. A lot of them are praising and encouraging McInerny on social media. A few standouts—like @pennyfeather1—accused her of making Keillor out to be a “monster” or being “self-righteous,” or even “ageist.”
“We all sin and fuck up,” Penny Feather wrote. “Learn to forgive and move on…”
McInerny isn’t convinced Keillor has earned her forgiveness—or anyone else’s, for that matter.
“Redemption includes contrition and action,” she wrote Tuesday. “Happy Holidays!”