PBS announced Wednesday that it has “indefinitely suspended” the “Tavis Smiley” show and its namesake host amid sexual misconduct allegations, but the talk show host said he plans to “fight back.”
In a statement posted on the “PBS NewsHour” website, PBS said the decision came after it hired MSK, an outside law firm, to investigate “troubling allegations” it received about the late-night host.
Smiley took to social media after the announcement and unequivocally denied the accusations of any wrongdoing against him.
“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,” he wrote on Facebook.
“This has gone too far. And, I, for one, intend to fight back.”
— Tavis Smiley (@tavissmiley) December 14, 2017
What did the investigation find?
The investigation “found credible allegations that Smiley had engaged in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates” and that some feared “their employment status was linked to the status of a sexual relationship with Smiley,” an unnamed PBS spokeswoman told PBS NewsHour.
MSK took reports from 10 witnesses, a mix of men and women of different races and employment levels in Smiley’s organization, most of them former staffers, Variety reported.
The investigation, Smiley alleged on social media, was “biased and sloppy, which led to a rush to judgment, and trampling on a reputation that I have spent an entire lifetime trying to establish.”
What else did Smiley say?
“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 wrote. “Never. Ever. Never.”
He added, “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.”
How did Smiley learn about the investigation and his suspension?
The story of his suspension first broke on Variety, and, according to Smiley, Variety knew about it before he did.
“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,” he wrote.
Smiley threatened a lawsuit after learning about the inquiries.
PBS investigators “reluctantly” agreed to a meeting that lasted three hours, he said. Soon after the meeting ended on Wednesday, Variety published the story.
What else has been reported about Smiley’s alleged behavior?
In February, Observer published a piece written by Jacques Hyzagi, a former producer on Smiley’s television show. Hyzagi wrote about a trip he and Smiley took together for a special show taping.
Smiley’s “misogyny is always creeping around, barely camouflaged by Midwestern good manners,” Hyzagi wrote.
Tavis had picked up a young woman named Blanca at the Orlando airport and brought her along as “a f*** buddy.”
“Look at her, she’s so stupid,” he tells me, during our stopover from New York to Bismarck at Chick-fil-A in the Minneapolis airport Delta terminal after Blanca had left us at the counter and walked toward the gate. “How am I gonna carry all this food and my bags now? I specifically told her to wait for us,” he tells me angrily.