Defiant Tavis Smiley Says PBS Shouldn't Have Fired Him

The public broadcaster cut distribution of Smiley's show, citing "credible allegations" of misconduct.

Tavis Smiley appeared on ABC's Good Morning America on Monday and denied that PBS had the grounds for cutting distribution of his nightly show, a decision announced last week by the organization following accusations of sexual misconduct.

PBS said that accusations against Smiley were investigated and "multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS" turned up.

Smiley did not deny that he engaged in consensual sexual relationships with his employees, as was originally reported. But, he said: "I have never groped, I have never coerced, I have never exposed myself inappropriately to anyone."

While he applauded the women who spoke out against him, he said that "nuance and proportionality" should not be lost — suggesting that what he did or didn't do was not on par with some of the more serious offenses leveled against fellow media men like Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer. "If we do, then people end up being guilty simply by accusation," he said.

Smiley also mentioned that his own company's handbook does not forbid employee relationships, because, he said, "I don't know where your heart is going to lead you." Under tough questioning, he admitted that one of his sexual partners is still a member of his staff.

He also said that it took weeks for PBS to agree to talk to him as part of the investigation, which he said he wasn't originally told about. "They did this for weeks and refused to talk to me," he said, noting that he had to threaten to sue the company to facilitate a conversation.

PBS responded strongly to Smiley's comments in a statement to reporters. The organization pointed to inconsistencies in Smiley's public comments and said that "Tavis Smiley needs to get his story straight." In part, PBS said: "PBS has been consistent: PBS stands by the integrity of its investigation, which has been conducted by an outside firm with expertise in such matters. Mr. Smiley’s own words today coupled with the information discovered during the investigation confirms PBS’ decision to indefinitely suspend the distribution of 'Tavis Smiley.'"

Like former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly before him, Smiley said on Monday that no complaints were ever filed against him.

While his interview Monday may help him in the court of public opinion, it's unlikely to get PBS to reconsider its decision. Rose, it's worth noting, has not said anything publicly since his PBS-distributed show was cut Nov. 21.