Meet country music’s Harvey Weinstein.
No fewer than 13 individuals have now come forward accusing major Nashville music publicist Kirt Webster of a range of sexual misconduct, including assault and molestation.
Webster, 43, has stepped down from his role at the head of the Webster PR firm amidst numerous and increasing allegations of abuse and misconduct, both sexual and otherwise. The agency, which is now being operated under the name Westby Public Relations by Webster’s colleague, Jeremy Westby, has counted Dolly Parton, Hank Williams Jr., Kenny Rogers, and Kid Rock amongst its clients. Rock has cut ties with the company following the accusations of a number of former clients and employees.
The allegations are startling in their range. Some recount Webster yelling so much he vomited (on two different occasions); that he threatened to punch an employee for buying candy for the office candy dish with company funds; and that he often made individuals watch hardcore porn or talked about his sex life in the office. There are also instances of Webster grabbing male employees by the rear and crotch, or asking them to take a naked dip in his hot tub. He allegedly touched people inappropriately, whether it was for unwanted massages or twisting an employees nipple; two employees accuse him of pantomiming a sex act on them in front of others, with one woman saying he pulled her hair during the incident.
Austin C. Rick, who performed under the name Austin Cody, was the first person to come forward with allegations against Webster. While Rick was his client, Webster reportedly told the budding country singer, “I want there to be fireworks in your career, but first there has to be fireworks between you and I.” The flirtation led to Webster asking Rick to sit on his lap while they watched pornography, and threats that if Rick didn’t follow along, Webster would kill his career in music. It culminated in an event during an Easter party in 2008, when Rick was apparently staying in a guest room at Webster’s.
“I drank a drink. I drank a second drink, and before that second drink was gone, I remember nothing else. The next thing I remember was waking up, coming to, under his sheets, in his bed,” Rick recounted to The Tennessean. “I had my own guest bedroom right down the hallway with my stuff and everything. But I wake up in his bed. It’s just us. All of the partiers had gone. He is like bear-hugging slash cuddling me and he’s kissing my ears, my nose, my mouth, my neck, everything.”
The next morning, Rick escaped the house in a taxi. As Webster threatened, his career did indeed end, as he lost all his contracts and radio or endorsement deals.
Since Rick’s initial allegations, further victims have come forward with accusations and stories of their own. One former employee said Webster made him perform and receive oral sex during his job interview, while another recalled Webster following him into the bathroom and asking if he wanted to “fuck.” The misconduct extended beyond his employees and clients, as Webster allegedly bragged about receiving naked pictures or sexual favors from gay men in order to gain access to Dolly Parton. He apparently showed these pictures to employees around the office.
The level of harassment and abuse in the allegations is just staggering. Webster has stepped down from his company in order “to focus on combating the egregious and untrue allegations made against him,” according to a statement from what’s now being called Westby. For more, read The Tennessean’s breakdown from a number of specific accusers.