Little more than a year after prominent country music publicist Kirt Webster was accused of sexual harassment, verbal abuse and inappropriate workplace conduct by more than 20 previous employees, the Nashville publicist boldly announced his return to work earlier this week in an interview with the Tennessean.
“Contrary to speculation, I have never gone anywhere,” Webster told the newspaper, all but confirming previous conjecture that the publicist never truly stopped working in the industry, despite officially stepping down from, and disbanding, his former public relations firm Webster PR in the wake of last year’s scandal. “Things and projects are happening already.”
“He’s so confident that the industry doesn’t give two shits. I don’t know whether that says more about the industry or him,” says singer Austin Rick, the former Webster client who in 2017 accused the publicist of sexual misconduct and abuse during a series of incidents that allegedly took place when Rick was an aspiring singer starting his career in Nashville.
“I know I was sexually assaulted,” Rick said of an instance in which he claims to have woken up in Webster’s bed. Webster denied all accusations at the time and has not been charged with any crimes.
“Unfortunately, these kinds of people are everywhere, but the problem is compounded when they’re insulated within an industry that values power, the control that stems from having it, and money over righteousness,” Rick tells Rolling Stone. “Of course, that’s not everyone, and it’s not even the majority of people in Nashville. But it only takes a few to corrupt the broader picture.”
As a veteran Nashville publicist, Webster’s lists of clients once included Dolly Parton, Kid Rock, Cyndi Lauper, Randy Travis, Justin Moore and dozens more. Webster’s interview coincides with the debut of the publicist’s new professional music industry consultancy website. A bio on the website, comparing him to the Wizard of Oz, begins in part, “A funny thing happened to Kirt Webster on the way to his own unexpected notoriety…”
Says Rick of the former publicist’s new venture: “Kirt plans on painting himself as a victim.”