Tavis Smiley Hits Back at PBS’ Suspension Of His Show Amid Sexual Assault Allegations

"If having a consensual relationship with a colleague years ago is the stuff that leads to this kind of public humiliation and personal destruction, heaven help us."



After the news of PBS’ suspension of Tavis Smiley’s late-night talk show broke Wednesday night, the host is hitting back in a bristling video post on Facebook and Twitter. Variety reported PBS suspended production of “Tavis Smiley” after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. But according to Smiley, he “never groped, coerced, or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career.”

“I was as shocked as you were to hear of PBS’ sudden announcement regarding my television program,” he says in a video posted early Thursday, Dec. 14. “Let me say at the outset that I have the utmost respect for all women and I certainly celebrate the courage of those women who’ve come forth of late to share their truth.”

He added that PBS launched a “sloppy” investigation on the matter, which included “credible allegations” from 10 witnesses who said Smiley engaged in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates, according to Variety’s sources. Witnesses said they felt their employment was tied to having a sexual relationship with Smiley and said he created a verbally abusive and threatening work environment. Additionally, there was some concern about retaliation.

“Effective today, PBS has indefinitely suspended distribution of ‘Tavis Smiley,’ produced by TS Media, an independent production company,” read the statement. “PBS engaged an outside law firm to conduct an investigation immediately after learning of troubling allegations regarding Mr. Smiley. This investigation included interviews with witnesses as well as with Mr. Smiley. The inquiry uncovered multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS, and the totality of this information led to today’s decision.”

Yet, Smiley said he did not learn about the probe until ex-colleagues got in touch with him to say they got calls from PBS asking them if he ever made them uncomfortable and for names of others to contact. Smiley noted that it was only after he threatened a lawsuit that PBS had a three-hour sitdown with him. But he said the story broke almost immediately after the meeting and that the network which he called his talk show home for 13 years “refused to provide me any semblance of due process.”

“It is clear that this has gone too far,” he says. “And, I, for one, intend to fight back.”

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Online, commenters reacted with a mix of support for Smiley and applause for his ousting.

Some thought he deserved to have his show suspended, with some remarking on his criticism of former President Barack Obama.

Others thought PBS took things too far over the allegations.

One said they stood by Smiley.

And some felt saddened.

And a couple expressed surprise, although the former was sarcastic.

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