UPDATE: Scott Adkins, the former Vice President of Publicity for Webster PR, has confirmed his exit from the company, effective immediately, and announced the launch of his own publicity firm. Additionally, a representative for Webster PR has issued the following statement clarifying the company’s closure: “Earlier today, it was mistakenly posted on the Webster Public Relations’ website that the firm has been closed. This was stated incorrectly. Webster Public Relations will continue operating – but under the name Westby Public Relations – while Kirt Webster takes some time away from the business to focus on combating the egregious and untrue allegations made against him. The company’s work on behalf of its clients will continue under the leadership of Jeremy Westby, Kirt’s longstanding colleague.”
Kirt Webster, the Nashville-based publicist representing Dolly Parton, Hank Williams Jr. and Kid Rock, is being accused of sexual assault by a former musical client.
Austin Rick, a North Carolina native who performed under the name Austin Cody, shared his story on Facebook Friday, October 27th, inspired by stories of sexual harassment and assault from all corners of the entertainment industry in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. “The point of my message is, selfishly,” he wrote, “the hope that getting it out of my own head and to you and a few industry folks finally, will help me reach some kind of relief/peace of mind.”
In his post, Rick alleged sexual assault, coercion into performing sexual acts and being drugged. Speaking with the Nashville Scene, Rick recalled an incident where Webster also allegedly groped his genitals in a hot tub, and another where he claims to have passed out after drinking and awoke to find himself in bed with Webster, who was attempting physical contact with him.
“I started working with Kirt, and before I knew it, it didn’t take long before I was trapped in a hellhole that I could not get out of,” Rick told the Scene. “I trusted him completely, and he wanted to make me a star just long enough to sexually molest and abuse me.”
After that experience, Rick left Nashville and abandoned his country music career. He was briefly enlisted in the Army and graduated from college at the University of North Carolina.
A representative for Webster’s firm, Webster Public Relations, shared a statement denying the allegations with the Nashville Scene:
“As a single adult, Mr. Webster has had multiple relationships over the course of his professional life, all of which have been consensual. This includes a brief relationship with Mr. Rick. It saddens Mr. Webster that nine years later, after Mr. Rick’s music career has been stagnant, Mr. Rick has taken the opportunistic approach of mischaracterizing that relationship and posting untrue allegations.”
Webster’s firm did not respond to Rolling Stone‘s requests for comment. Earlier on Wednesday, the company’s website was taken offline with a message that the company was out of business effective November 1st and that client requests should be referred to longtime employee Jeremy Westby.
According to a report on Nashville television station WSMV, other individuals have made similar claims against Webster.
Thus far, none of Webster’s highest-profile clients have commented on the allegations. Last week, Webster helped oversee a major farewell concert for client Kenny Rogers in Nashville. In January, he booked clients Lee Greenwood, 3 Doors Down, Sam Moore and Tim Rushlow at Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again inauguration concert.