PBS announced on Wednesday that they have suspended Tavis Smiley on allegations of sexual harassment.
According to Variety, PBS put out the following statement about the situation:
“Effective today, PBS has indefinitely suspended distribution of ‘Tavis Smiley,’ produced by TS Media, an independent production company,” the public broadcaster said. “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.”
Sources told Variety that the law firm in charge of the investigation took reports from 10 witnesses, a diverse men and women from different races and employment levels within Smiley’s organization. However, most of them former staffers.
But what PBS found was eye-opening and they believe the following accounts are credible:
- Smiley engaged in sexual relationships with multiple employees who worked underneath him.
- Some witnesses interviewed expressed concern that their employment status was linked to the status of a sexual relationship with Smiley.
- In addition, witnesses described Smiley as creating a verbally abusive and threatening environment that went beyond what could be expected in a typical high-pressure work environment.
- Several expressed concerns about retaliation if they came forward or reported his behavior to higher ups.
Of course, Smiley is denying all of these allegations.
In a video he posted on social media on Wednesday night, he stressed that he respects women and he has never coerced them into sex.
“I have the utmost respect for women and celebrate the courage of those who have come forth to tell their truth. To be clear, I have never groped, coerced, or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career, covering 6 networks over 30 years.”
Smiley added, “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. The PBS investigators refused to review any of my personal documentation, refused to provide me the names of any accusers, refused to speak to my current staff, and refused to provide me any semblance of due process to defend myself against allegations from unknown sources. Their mind was made up. Almost immediately following the meeting, this story broke in Variety as an “exclusive.” Indeed, I learned more about these allegations reading the Variety story than the PBS investigator shared with me, the accused, in our 3 hour face to face meeting.
My attorneys were sent a formal letter invoking a contractual provision to not distribute my programming, and that was it.
Put simply, PBS overreacted and conducted a biased and sloppy investigation, which led to a rush to judgment, and trampling on a reputation that I have spent an entire lifetime trying to establish.
This has gone too far. And, I, for one, intend to fight back.
It’s time for a real conversation in America, so men and women know how to engage in the workplace. I look forward to actively participating in that conversation.”
This is a developing story and we will provide updates as they become available.