Months after leaving his post atop one of the most powerful PR companies in Nashville following multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, publicist Kirt Webster was given a Publicist of the Year award by P.R. News, only to have it rescinded moments later when the news site became aware of the allegations against the former head of Webster Public Relations.
PR News initially gave Webster the award at the 2017 PR People Awards on Tuesday (Dec. 5) at the historic National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Minutes after news got out the next day, his name was removed from the website and was replaced with a different winner.
The list of winners now contains a short statement from PR News saying they have rescinded Webster’s award. It reads:
PR News has rescinded the 2017 Publicist of the Year award given to Kirt Webster amid just-released allegations against Webster of sexual abuse. The PR News judges had no knowledge of these actions four months ago during the judging process.
For years, Webster had dominated the Music City publicist world with clients that included Dolly Parton, Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams Jr., Cyndi Lauper and Brenda Lee. But on Nov. 1, singer Austin Rick accused Webster of offering opportunities and coverage in exchange for sexual favors. A piece that appeared a day later in the Tennessean included 10 former and current employees who accused Webster of a litany of misconduct charges, including allegedly trading tickets and backstage passes for sexual favors.
Many artists dropped Webster after the allegations surfaced, and the firm changed its named to Westby PR after business partner Jeremy Westby, with Webster agreeing to step away from the business.
Former Webster associate Zach Farnum told the USA Today news of the award was “not only a slap in the face to all of the good, moral publicists in our profession, but also to the many victims like myself who suffered through his torment. I will not participate in or associate with this organization until they correct and apologize for this error.”
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