Television talk-show host Tavis Smiley, whose PBS interview program was suspended Wednesday amid allegations of sexual misconduct, shot back late that night with a Facebook statement and video accusing the network of rushing to judgment and refusing him due process.
“PBS launched this so-called investigation of me without ever even telling me about it,” Smiley, 53, says in the video. He learned through colleagues and staffers, he says, that an investigator was calling them “asking, number one, ‘Did Tavis ever make you feel uncomfortable in the workplace?’ and number two, ‘Can you give us other persons to call?’ ” Only after he threatened a lawsuit did PBS meet with him about the issue. “And even then their minds must have been made up, because almost immediately after that session ended, this story broke in Variety,” he says.
“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 additionally wrote in his post. “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.”
Charging that PBS “overreacted and conducted a biased and sloppy investigation,” Smiley wrote that the network was “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.”
PBS had suspended distribution of “Tavis Smiley,” independently produced by the star’s company, TS media, after a law firm’s investigation found what the network called “multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS.”
A PBS spokeswoman told Newsday in a statement Thursday that the network had “hired an independent law firm to conduct an investigation and we stand by its integrity. The totality of the investigation, which included Mr. Smiley, revealed a pattern of multiple relationships with subordinates over many years.”