Kid Rock, Hank Williams Jr. & More Cut Ties With Webster PR Following Sexual Assault Allegations Against CEO
The firm's flagship client Dolly Parton issued a statement on Thursday saying she is "hoping that the accusations are not true."
Former country singer Austin Rick (who used the stage name Austin Cody) initially posted on Facebook last week about Webster’s sexual misconduct, including claims that he was drugged and offered publicity opportunities “in exchange for sexual acts.”
Rock, whose real name is Robert Ritchie, spoke about the issue in a statement given to the music industry newsletter Lefsetz Letter on Thursday (Nov. 2).
“The shocking accusations of sexual assault and mistreatment of others I take dead seriously,” he said. “I never witnessed or heard about any of this outside that he was probably gay, which I could care less about.”
Rock spent several years with the publicity firm, which had promoted his farcical campaign for Senate. “We (BMG) cancelled his and his companies services upon not only hearing about these, but other rumors that are starting to swirl,” the statement read.
“I hope to god this shit he is being accused of is not true as he has been nothing but a good friend to me,” Rock continued in the statement. “But if it comes to light that it is, I will be the first to cut the head off the snake. Unfortunately, I believe sexual harassment is like cancer. We all know someone affected by it and it has to stop.”
After the allegations came to light, it was initially announced the firm would change its name to Westby Public Relations and continue under the leadership of the company's second-in-command, Jeremy Westby. Now, Westby has told press, including Variety, that he will be starting a whole new company under that name.
On Thursday, a number of clients' names were removed from the Webster website before, ultimately, the entire roster page disappeared, Variety reports. Among those names were flagship artist Dolly Parton, as well as Rock, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams Jr., Kenny G, Billy Ray Cyrus, Big & Rich, Cyndi Lauper, Kiefer Sutherland, Don McLean and many more. The roster had reportedly numbered 71 clients in September and was down to 37 before it was taken down.
Although Parton has not officially stated whether she has left Webster, she did issue a statement via Twitter on Thursday addressing the issue. “I've worked with Kirt Webster for many years and he has done a wonderful job," she wrote. "I am hoping that 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
Rogers' management told Billboard that he will continue to work with Westby, while Williams Jr. and Aaron Lewis are no longer repped by Webster. The Tennessean reports that Justin Moore, Billy Ray Cyrus, Naomi Judd, Gary Morris, Exile, Tim Rushlow and Lorrie Morgan have all left Webster as well.
On Thursday, three more men came forward to say Webster sexually harassed or abused them during instances dating from 2009-2015, The Tennessean reports. Meanwhile, Metro Nashville police told the publication that they will not pursue criminal charges against Webster because the eight-year statute of limitations has passed on Rick’s claims, which date back to 2008.
Webster has denied Rick’s claims.