The rapidly growing list of women accusing film mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault has sparked a wave of similar accusations against other men in power — with the movement growing outside of Hollywood. Nashville public relations executive Kirt Webster is the latest to be under fire for an alleged history of misconduct, reported by both male and female clients and subordinates.
Although wielding tremendous influence in Music City, Webster is not a name that’s widely known to the general public. He’s the owner of Webster Public Relations, a firm he started in 1996 that grew to house the biggest client roster in country music. He’s overseen the careers of some of country music’s biggest stars over those two decades — including iconic legacy names such as Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams Jr., Tanya Tucker, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Bill Anderson, as well as newer artists such as Billy Ray Cyrus, Justin Moore, Big & Rich, Aaron Lewis, and Olivia Lane. Webster’s reach also encompassed select non-country artists such as Kid Rock, Cyndi Lauper, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kenny G, and KC & the Sunshine Band.
Earlier this year, Webster accompanied several of his clients, including Lee Greenwood, to Washington, D.C., as they performed at Donald Trump‘s pre-inauguration concert. Webster’s firm holds a variety of accolades, including the Nashville Association of Talent Directors’ Board of Directors Award, granted in 2015.
Webster’s controversy began when former country singer Austin Rick alleged last month that the executive sexually assaulted him multiple times during 2007 and 2008, when he was a client of Webster’s and pursuing a music career under the name Austin Cody. Numerous employees of the firm have added their stories, which range from allegations of verbal abuse and intimidation to outright propositions and accusations of being drugged.
Webster has denied the allegations in a statement. Although most of his roster quickly disassociated themselves from the firm, he was still commended for his work by two of his top clients. Flagship artist Parton tweeted on Thursday (Nov. 2): “I’ve worked with Kirt Webster for many years and he has done a wonderful job. I am hoping the accusations are not true.”
I've worked with Kirt Webster for many years and he has done a wonderful job. I am hoping that the accusations are not true.
— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) November 2, 2017
Meanwhile, Kid Rock had stronger words, saying in a letter to industry blogger Bob Lefsetz that he takes accusations of sexual assault “dead seriously,” but adding: “I hope to God this s*** he is being accused of is not true, as he has been nothing but a good friend to me.”
Webster announced Wednesday (Nov. 1) that he was stepping down from Webster PR and that the firm would become Westby PR under the direction of former senior vice president Jeremy Westby. The following day, Westby told Variety that he is starting over with a whole new firm.
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