MPR News reporter resigns, accuses outlet of sitting on story alleging sexual misconduct by host at The Current

Marianne Combs has been with the news organization for 23 years.
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Long-serving reporter Marianne Combs has announced her resignation from MPR News, which she has accused of mothballing her story detailing allegations of sexual misconduct by a host at The Current.

Combs, the arts and culture reporter who has been with MPR News for 23 years, said she had spent "the past two and a half months investigating allegations made about the conduct of a DJ at our sister station, The Current."

She said as part of that investigation, she received testimony from eight women who say they were "sexually manipulated and psychologically abused," with the alleged abuse spanning a period of 15 years while the host – who has not been named – was working at other radio stations.

Combs said she wrote a story draft that was okayed by MPR News' legal counsel, who saw "no legal threat to MPR News for airing the story."

"Despite this, my editors have failed to move forward on the story," she tweeted. 

"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.

"They described him as 'a real creep,' but worried that airing a story about his behavior would invite a lawsuit," the tweet said.

"While the editors have not gone so far as to cancel the story, they have shown such a complete lack of leadership that I no longer have any confidence they will handle the story appropriately," she added.

Combs said she was resigning from MPR News to "show my continued support for these women."

"MPR hosts – whether they are news anchors or music DJs – are public figures and communicate what our organization stands for," she added.

"They must be held to a higher standard than simply obeying the law. And our newsroom must not flinch at turning a critical eye on our own company and staff."

MPR News has not yet commented on Combs' claims and her resignation.

Harassment, misogyny in Twin Cities music scene

In June, a number of allegations of sexual harassment and misogyny within the Twin Cities music industry spread across social media, with some of the results including hip-hop label Rhymesayers ending its relationship with two local artists, Prof and Dem Atlas.

Allegations of inappropriate behavior by a host at The Current surfaced then, with MPR saying at the time it had been made aware of an allegation involving an employee and was "seeking facts."

And it's not just Combs who has been frustrated by Minnesota Public Radio's alleged reluctance to report on sexual impropriety within the music industry.

Andrea Swensson, the morning host for The Current, posted on her Facebook page in June that she had pitched four separate stories to "various people who hold ... positions of power" after becoming aware of a number of instances of "predatory and abusive men" in the music industry.

She said:

"They’ve all hit the same roadblock: that it’s one thing for a person to come forward on social media about their experiences, but it’s quite another for a media company to broadcast the name of an abuser to the general public. To do so requires unbiased investigation, an objective reporting and documentation of the facts, and a sign-off from the legal department that protects the company from liability.

"I have been told I am biased, because I know the people who have been abused."

"I’m not authorized to speak on behalf of my workplace and I’m not an investigative journalist," she also wrote. "These are two phrases that have been repeated to me again and again in recent years.

"So I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone besides myself. I’m writing this as a woman who has a platform and a deep sense of regret and responsibility about the fact that I’ve been complicit, like a cog in an unyielding machine, in a white supremacist system that has failed to bring any meaningful conversations about harassment in the music industry to the surface."

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