On a day when many of Nashville biggest artists prepare to attend the CMA Awards, Stella Parton urged members of the industry to speak out against sexual harassment in country music.
Stella Parton said she has been shocked and hurt to learn of sexual misconduct allegations about Kirt Webster, the longtime publicist for her sister, Dolly Parton.
"I think the entire country music industry in Nashville is obligated to speak out," Stella Parton said Wednesday. "I think people in the industry think 'oh, this is country music week, and we have to be quiet,' but for me this is the very time for artists to speak out about this stuff. I haven't heard one artist speak out about it."
Stella Parton called sexual harassment a "prevalent problem" in Nashville's country music industry, one that has affected her as well. She declined to speak about her own experiences.
Allegations against Webster first emerged with a Facebook post from former aspiring country music singer Austin C. Rick, who claimed Webster drugged and sexually assaulted him at an Easter party in 2008.
Since then, 17 former clients, staff members and interns have recounted to the USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee their experiences of workplace abuse and sexual harassment at one of Nashville's most powerful public relations firms. Artists who left the firm in the scandal's wake - in addition to Dolly Parton - included Kid Rock, Billy Ray Cyrus and Naomi Judd.
Webster stepped down from the firm last week, saying he needed to focus on fighting the allegations.
Dolly Parton has said that she hoped the allegations weren't true.
On Wednesday, Stella Parton told the USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee she hoped her sister would also speak out.
"I think she needs to condemn this type of behavior, whether he is guilty or not," Parton said. "I know for a fact she would not support that type of behavior and I know she's probably extremely shocked that this has in any way implicated her in this."
Allegations against Webster include that he was trading opportunities for meet-and-greets with Dolly Parton for sexual favors.
Asked if she would be speaking to her sister about the issue, she said: "You bet you, I plan to ask her."
"I am very hurt, offended, shocked and disgusted that we have this kind of thing going on right under the noses of people who work for my sister," she said. "After all these years of building the career she has and to have this attached to her has totally blindsided me."
Stella Parton on Wednesday posted on Facebook a message that said she was continuing to receive emails regarding the Webster scandal and invited others to email her, saying she would pass along allegations to authorities and an attorney.
Parton said she had received numerous emails thus far, including "a couple very disturbing emails this morning," she said. She said she has given those emails to an attorney, but declined to name the attorney.
"For no one to speak out about it is to condone that behavior," she said. "I'm not accusing him. These are allegations. But I think we each have an obligation to condemn this type of behavior."
Reach Anita Wadhwani at email@example.com, 615-259-8092 or on Twitter @AnitaWadhwani.