Kirt Webster Shutters Firm Amid Abuse Claims
Kirt Webster, a longtime Nashville public relations powerhouse, stepped away from Webster Public Relations and the company would rebrand as Westby Public Relations, the company announced shortly after its website posted an initial message saying it was closed effective Nov. 1.
– Webster Public Relations
The move came one day after a Nashville alternative newsweekly reported an accusation of sexual harassment involving a former client. Webster has denied the accusations as “egregious and untrue.”
Within hours, the controversy became a firestorm with reports of a mass client defection and former employees coming forward with their own versions of alleged abuse.
“Earlier today, it was mistakenly posted on the WebsterPublic Relations’ website that the firm has been closed. This was stated incorrectly,” according to the statement. “Webster Public Relations will continue operating – but under the name Westby Public Relations – while Kirt Webster takes some time away from the business to focus on combating the egregious and untrue allegations made against him.
“The company’s work on behalf of its clients will continue under the leadership of Jeremy Westby, Kirt’s longstanding colleague.”
The next day, Westby told Variety’s Chris Willman via text that Westby PR will instead be a separate company, completely divorced from Webster PR. “Fresh start, new firm,” Westby reportedly texted.
The WebsterPR.com website message saying the business had closed was soon removed and the home page, listing clients, news and contact information, was restored. But within the next 24 hours, many artists noticeably went missing from the client list including marquee names Dolly Parton and Kid Rock.
By afternoon Nov. 2, links to artist and corporate clients were removed.
Once the NashvilleScene report became public, the floodgates seemed to open against Webster as at least 13 former employees contacted major media outlets with their own stories, albeit without allowing themselves to be identified by name.
The Tennessean reported that three of them – a former household contractor, a personal assistant and an office manager – claim to have been sexually abused or harassed by Webster. Variety and others reported ex-employees reported an abusive workplace that included vulgarities and name-calling, screenings of pornography, and a mocking impersonation of former client Randy Travis, who is a stroke survivor.
– Introducing Westby Public Relations
Publicist Zach Farnam of 711 Group, and formerly of Webster PR, announced on Oct. 27 that his firm now exclusively handles public relations for Travis. Farnam has said that Travis was aware of the accusations against Webster and had no comment.
Among the Webster Public Relations clients before Nov. 1 were Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Kid Rock, Cyndi Lauper, Charlie Daniels, Hank Williams Jr., The Judds, and Lorrie Morgan. The company also represents many corporate and non-profit clients as well, including City of Hope Celebrity Softball Game, NRA Country and The Journey Home Project.