A one-time country musician named Austin C. Kirk has publicly accused Kirt Webster — a Nashville music publicist who is President and CEO of Webster Public Relations — of drugging, raping and harassing him in 2008 when Kirk was just entering the country music scene.
Webster has previously worked with clients like Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and Kid Rock.
Former employees of Webster’s have also alleged that Webster created a “culture of fear through sexual harassment at his business.” In response, Webster has called the claims “egregious and untrue” but has stepped away from his agency to address them nonetheless.
Kirk’s sexual assault claims against Kirt Webster
Kirk claims that Webster served as his publicist, radio promoter and manager when he first began his music career under the name Austin Cody. Soon after, Webster allegedly began flirting with Kirk. Kirk claims Webster told him, “I want there to be fireworks in your career, but first there has to be fireworks between you and I.”
In 2008, Kirt Webster, the CEO of the powerful “Webster Public Relations” did terrible, terrible things to me. He sexually assaulted me repeatedly, he drugged and sexually violated me, he offered me publicity opportunities and magazine columns in exchange for sexual acts. He paid me to keep my mouth shut. And he did everything under threat that he’d make sure nobody in the industry ever heard my name again. It took me a year to escape from him and get away to where he couldn’t find me or reach me any longer — although he still continued to harass me via phone and text messages.
I am likely going to find myself in a civil court battle. What Kirt Webster is, is Nashville’s worst-kept predatory secret. I cannot do this alone, and I would be so very grateful to anyone who can spare some change or a few dollars to support both my legal battle to come, as well as the #MeToo campaign in honor of victims everywhere.
Speaking to The Tennessean, Kirk claims Webster drugged his cocktail at an Easter party at Webster’s home in 2008. When Kirk woke up, he says all the other guests had left and Webster was in bed with him, hugging and kissing him. Kirk then secretly called a taxi and fled.
Afterward, Kirk said, “I lost everything. I lost my booking agency two days later. I lost my endorsements. I lost all of my radio promotion. I had nothing. And since that day, I have never performed again.”
The claims of Kirt Webster’s former employees are shocking, too
The Tennessean also spoke with 13 of Webster’s former employees whose allegations against Webster “include trading sexually explicit photographs for passes to meet-and-greet sessions with [Dolly] Parton, making unwanted physical contact with employees and using vulgar nicknames during company meetings.”
Their allegations are shocking and include accusations of Webster threatening to hit a female employee, pulling another’s hair, threatening to slice off part of a female employee’s vagina, simulating masturbation with an instrument case, twisting a male employee’s nipples, doing a mocking imitation of country music star Randy Travis after the star had suffered a stroke, watching pornography in the office starring the wife of a fellow employee and screaming so hard at an employee that he vomited.
Musicians Justin Moore, Naomi Judd, Billy Ray Cyrus, Exile, Tim Rushlow, Lorrie Morgan and Gary Morris have all left Webster PR following Kirk’s allegations.
The agency has since re-formed under the name Westby PR (named after the firm’s Senior Vice President, Jeremy Westby) and has re-launched with a list of 19 clients including Kenny Rogers, Oak Ridge Boys, Don McLean, Kenny G and NRA Country, however it seems like Dolly Parton’s name is no longer among the PR company’s clients.
Metro Nashville police say that they cannot pursue any criminal charges based on Rick’s charges against Webster because the statute of limitations for a sex crime is eight years.