Kirt Webster is a Nashville-based publicist who’s worked with Dolly Parton, Hank Williams Jr. and Kid Rock, and most recently helped oversee Kenny Rogers’ farewell concert 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.
He’s also been accused of sexual assault by a former client, Austin Rick (also known by his stage name, Austin Cody), who shared his story on Facebook last Friday:
My name is Austin, and I know that men don’t talk about these things as often, but I have been victimized by a very powerful businessman over the period of a year. I didn’t know what to do and how to say no, because he held such power over my music career and overtly reminded me of it.
I recognize that many are dealing with their own unique pain and recovery. I thank and applaud them for being role models and for stepping out to throw their monsters into the light of day. You are all heroes.
The point of my message is, selfishly, in 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 knowing that people know the truth about what was really happening.
So, here goes.
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 know this is perhaps an awkward statement for you to read because I don’t feel like a whole human being when I remember some of the explicit events. But, I just need people to truly know what actually happened to me down there, during that time. Thank you.
The post confirms that, in the wake of Harvey Weinstein, powerful men who literally and figuratively consume talent won’t go unchecked, thanks to “role models” and “heroes” who “throw their monsters into the light of day,” as Rick writes. The singer later told Nashville Scene, regarding the allegations, “I trusted [Webster] completely, and he wanted to make me a star just long enough to sexually molest and abuse me. And I remember one time he told me, ‘I want there to be fireworks in your career, but only if there’s fireworks between us.’ And that was like pretty early on in our relationship.” The “relationship” escalated to the point where Rick was forced to abandon his music career. He joined the Army briefly and later graduated from UNC.
Rick has created a GoFundMe with a goal of $15,000 to help with trial expenses, Nashville television station WSMV reports. Additionally, WSMV has spoken with others who claim that Webster showed “similar behavior” towards them, including a former employee who believes he was drugged by Webster.
As a rebuttal, a rep from Webster’s (former) firm issued the following statement:
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.
No other Webster clients have commented on the allegations, nor has Webster himself, but Webster PR told Rolling Stone that “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.”