PBS Suspends Tavis Smiley Show Amid Sexual Misconduct Claims

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Tavis Smiley

The public broadcaster is indefinitely suspending distribution of the talk show in light of allegations against its host.

PBS is suspending distribution of Tavis Smiley's eponymous late-night talk show following sexual misconduct claims levied against its host.

The decision comes after the public broadcaster conducted an investigation into Smiley and found "credible allegations" of inappropriate behavior.

"Effective today, PBS has indefinitely suspended distribution of Tavis Smiley, produced by TS Media, an independent production company," a PBS spokesperson said Wednesday in a 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."

Smiley, who served as host and producer on the show, allegedly was involved in sexual relationships with multiple members of his staff who claim he fostered a hostile work environment and engaged in verbal abuse, according to a report by Variety.  

Tavis Smiley first began airing on PBS in 2004.

Just last month, the public broadcaster also cut ties with Charlie Rose and canceled distribution of his eponymous shows, Charlie Rose and Charlie Rose The Week, after multiple accusations of sexual harassment against the host were made public by The Washington Post.

"PBS has terminated its relationship with Charlie Rose and cancelled distribution of his programs," the organization said at the time. "PBS expects all the producers we work with to provide a workplace where people feel safe and are treated with dignity and respect."

Late Wednesday night, Smiley responded to the allegations in a video and statement posted to his social media accounts. He said, in part, that he was "shocked" by PBS' announcement and claimed media outlets "knew before I did." And he denied the claims of inappropriate behavior and declared that he plans "to fight back."

"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. Never. Ever. Never." he wrote in a Facebook post.

Smiley argued that PBS launched its "so-called investigation" without telling him and only learned of it from former staffers.

"After 14 seasons, that’s how I learned of this inquiry, from the streets," he said, indicated that he was insulted by how PBS conducted its investigation. Further, he says that they reluctantly agreed to interview him, only after being threatened with a lawsuit.

"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," Smiley wrote. "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."

He added that he learned more from the investigation by reading the article breaking the news than he did from the meeting with PBS. While his show has been suspended, he's not going quietly.

"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," Smiley wrote. "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."

Read Smiley's full statement and watch his video below.

On the eve of the 15th season and 3,000th episode of my nightly talk show, I was as shocked as anyone else by PBS’ announcement today. Variety knew before I did.
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.
Never. Ever. Never.
PBS launched a so-called investigation of me without ever informing me. I learned of the investigation when former staffers started contacting me to share the uncomfortable experience of receiving a phone call from a stranger asking whether, I had ever done anything to make them uncomfortable, and if they could provide other names of persons to call. After 14 seasons, that’s how I learned of this inquiry, from the streets.
Only after being threatened with a lawsuit, did PBS investigators reluctantly agree to interview me for three hours.
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.

Dec. 14, 6:56 a.m. This story has been updated to include Smiley's statement and video in response to the claims and PBS' decision to suspend distribution of his nightly talk show.

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