Dolly Parton’s Sister ‘Disgusted’ Over Country Music’s Silence on Sexual Assault
Dolly Parton's sister, singer Stella Parton, is opening up about what she says is country music's "unacceptable" lack of response to allegations of sexual assault by a prominent publicist.
Kirt Webster ran Webster PR, one of the biggest public relations firms in Nashville, whose clients included Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams, Jr., Tanya Tucker, the Oak Ridge Boys and Bill Anderson, among many others. On Nov. 1, he announced he was stepping down as the head of the company after former aspiring singer Austin Rick accused Webster of repeatedly sexually assaulting him from 2007-2008, when he was pursuing a country music career under the name Austin Cody. Rick alleges that Webster intimidated him into accepting oral sex, fondled him in a hot tub and even drugged him so he could assault him at a party at Webster's home.
After Rick's allegations became public, another singer came forward with similar allegations, along with a long string of former employees who described Webster's office as a "toxic environment" in which sexual assault was commonplace. Webster saw many of his clients drop him as the scandal unfolded, but Stella Parton — whose sister Dolly was one of Webster's most prominent clients — says she was "disgusted" by country music's lack of commentary on the issue of sexual assault during the 2017 CMA Awards the following week.
“I was disgusted that the entire industry — all of the artists and the managers and the record companies and the CMA and all the people at other PR firms — that no one can say anything?" Parton tells Nashville's WSMV news station.
Parton has had a long recording and performing career of her own, and "I have been victimized myself," she states, adding, "To let these predatory monsters run loose up and down our streets on Music Row? I am sorry, that is unacceptable."
She says she was "horrified" at allegations that Webster traded meet-and-greet passes and backstage passes to meet Dolly Parton for oral sex, and she couldn't comprehend comments from '80s country hitmaker Janie Fricke, who defended Webster in an interview with WSMV on Nov. 3, saying the publicist has "a good heart."
"I don't believe in the sensationalism" of the allegations against Webster, Fricke said, adding, "I don't believe in the term 'sexual harassment.’ I don't believe in any of that."
"I thought, 'How delusional can you be, lady?' I was just horrified," Parton says.
Dolly Parton is among the clients who have left Webster after news of the allegations broke, saying in a tweet, "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."
These Artists Have Left Webster PR After Sexual Assault Allegations