Former talk show host Tavis Smiley is reportedly suing PBS for firing him last December following an investigation into allegations into sexual misconduct.
Smiley told the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi today that suing PBS, which had distributed his half-hour talk show since 2004, was not a route he wanted to take, but “litigation seems to be the only way to get at the truth.”
Variety broke news on Dec. 13, 2017 that PBS had “indefinitely suspended” the host amid an investigation by public broadcaster from an outside law firm which concluded there were “credible allegations” regarding sexual misconduct.
In its statement from Dcember, PBS said, “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.”
He did admit to having consensual sexual relationships with women on his staff, including one who still works with him, but stated “I’ve never groped, I’ve never coerced” women on his staff into sexual relations “in 30 years over 6 networks.”
A few days after the suspension was handed down, Smiley appeared on Good Morning America, and later Tucker Carlson Tonight to defend himself against the allegations.
“PBS made a huge mistake here,” Smiley said during a sit-down with ABC News’s Paula Faris.
He added, “I celebrate and applaud these women who had the courage to come out.” but stated that he’s concerned that because of the recent climate, “people end up being guilty simply by accusations.”
Later that night, he told Carlson “if PBS that does not “fix this,” and he sues over network’s decision to suspend distribution of his program, “millions of taxpayer dollars are going to be spent by PBS defending itself…And I don’t think taxpayers want their money spent that way.”
PBS is not going down without a fight. A network spokesperson provided TVNewser with the following statement this evening:
Today’s meritless lawsuit is yet another example of Tavis Smiley’s attempts to distract the public from his pattern of sexual misconduct in the workplace.
As PBS has consistently stated, following receipt of a complaint alleging inappropriate conduct by Mr. Smiley, PBS hired an independent law firm to conduct an investigation. The ongoing investigation, which included a lengthy interview with Mr. Smiley, revealed that he had multiple sexual encounters with subordinates over many years and yielded credible allegations of additional misconduct inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS. That is what led PBS to the decision to indefinitely suspend distribution of Mr. Smiley’s program.
The notion that PBS’ decision to suspend distribution of the program was made for any reason aside from Mr. Smiley’s own behavior is ridiculous and false.