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Tribune Columnist Robert Kirby Apologizes For His Treatment Of Writer Courtney Kendrick

Courtney Kendrick stands with Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby who was suspended by the paper after an internal investigation
Courtney Kendrick
Courtney Kendrick and Robert Kirby the night of their Sunstone panel.

Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby apologized today for his inappropriate behavior toward Utah writer Courtney Kendrick during a Mormon conference earlier this summer. The prominent blogger wrote on Facebook Wednesday that she felt “embarrassed and belittled” during their interaction.

In his apology, which he also posted on Facebook, Kirby said he misjudged how she would respond to his sense of humor.


Kendrick said she chose to share her story as an example of how Utah women are treated by what she called “so-called progressive Mormon men.”


Robert Kirby did not respond to a request for comment.


Kendrick said she’s been an admirer of Kirby’s work for a long time and was excited to be paired with him on a panel at the Sunstone Symposium in July at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy, a conference that focuses on Mormon history and culture.  


Kendrick said soon after they were introduced, Kirby said, “‘Let’s pretend I just picked you up from an escort service and walk over to this table over there,’” Kendrick recalled to KUER. “You know, as if I was his escort.”


Kendrick said Kirby then offered her a marijuana edible, which she accepted.


“I would like to say that at that point I had the wherewithal to have some sense in me,” Kendrick wrote. “The truth is, I was still stunned and shocked, and inside me remained that voice, ‘Just please him,’ and ‘He's a big deal, you don't want to reject him.’”


The edible led to the most embarrassing moment for Kendrick of the evening, something Kirby shared with the Sunstone audience as the panel was concluding.


“She’s high,” Kirby told the laughing audience. “I’m serious, she really is. I gave her some weed.”


Kendrick laughed it off saying, “It’s true. He’s like, ‘You seem really nervous, would you like one of these candies?’”


Kedrick said she didn’t want to embarrass Kirby, a columnist whom she deeply respected. But after the night was over she said the events didn’t sit well with her.


“The whole thing just made me feel sick,” Kendrick said. “I haven’t been able to even look at his picture on the byline.”


In his Facebook apology Kirby wrote, “I owe Courtney Kendrick a sincere apology.”


He added that he didn’t realize he was making her uncomfortable at the time and that he wished she had reached out to him right away so they could have resolved it amicably.


Kirby decided to share Kendrick’s story on his page to let his followers know what transpired.


For Kendrick, she said she didn’t share the story because it was unique, but rather because it’s the kind of thing that happens to her and many other women on a regular basis.


The timing of the post stems from a recent column by Kirby in which he criticized the tactics of McKenna Denson, the Mormon woman who has accused a former Missionary Training Center president of raping her in the 1980s.


Denson recently visited a Mormon worship service in Arizona where she again accused her alleged attacker, Joseph Bishop, this time in front of his congregation.


Kirby wrote, “As engaging as the video of Denson calling out her alleged rapist was, what I found a lot more enjoyable were the clueless statements she made when men in suits got up and tried to escort her away from the lectern.”


What Kirby was referring to was how Denson reacted to local Mormon leaders when they attempted to escort her off the podium. She told them they were assaulting her and asked someone to call 911.


“Sorry, that wasn’t even close to assault,” Kirby wrote


In her Facebook post, Kendrick called the column “awful” and wrote that many readers “had the same reaction I had at Sunstone--surprised to find out that at the end of the day [Kirby] is as problematic as any other ignorant man in our patriarchal community.”


Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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