Tavis Smiley, who hosted a namesake interview program on PBS for almost 14 years until being dropped in December amid allegations of sexual misconduct, has sued the public broadcaster for breach of contract and damage to his production company.
“I’ve spent the bulk of my career in public media, so filing a lawsuit against PBS was the last thing I wanted to do,” Smiley, 53, told The Washington Post Tuesday after filing the suit in Washington, D.C., Superior Court. “But litigation seems to be the only way to get at the truth.”
The suit alleges that because of long simmering racial “tension,” the network used a “poorly executed and incomplete” investigation as a rationale to drop the show, which was independently produced by Smiley’s company, TS Media, and distributed by PBS.
“In violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, PBS decided to use a technical provision in its contract with TSM to stop distributing … the only nightly television show featuring a person of color as the host,” the suit states, according to an excerpt at Deadline.com. “With the relationship already having deteriorated, this allegation gave PBS executives a pretext to finally rid themselves of Mr. Smiley, who was not the ‘team player’ type of African American personality PBS preferred to have hosting a nightly national news and public affairs program.”
The suit additionally alleges that TS Media has lost “multiple millions of dollars” and shed approximately 20 employees due to being dropped, said The Washington Post.
A PBS representative told Newsday in a statement, “This meritless lawsuit is yet another example of Tavis Smiley’s attempts to distract the public from his pattern of sexual misconduct in the workplace.” Reiterating a December statement describing an investigation by an independent law firm and “a lengthy interview with” Smiley — who was described what he has termed consensual workplace relationships — the new statement went on to say, “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.”
Smiley has not commented on social media. PBS’ official website continues to include a home page for the show “Tavis Smiley,” including interviews through Dec. 12.
Last month, Smiley launched the talk series “The Upside with Tavis Smiley” online and on the religious-oriented cable and satellite channel The Word Network.