PBS is “indefinitely” suspending distribution of the late-night talk show “Tavis Smiley” after multiple misconduct allegations emerged against the show’s 53-year-old host, PBS announced Wednesday.
While a statement from a PBS spokeswoman did not say what sort of misconduct was alleged, PBS News Hour, on its website, said the allegations involved “sexual misconduct.”
In a Facebook video posted early Thursday morning, Smiley said he was “shocked” to hear PBS’s sudden announcement and intends to “fight back” against the network’s “so-called investigation.”
He said he has the “utmost respect” for all women, and celebrates “the courage of those women who have come forth of late to share their own truth.”
“Let me also assure you that I have never groped, inappropriately exposed myself or coerced any colleague in the workplace ever in my 30-year career,” Smiley said.
“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 added in a written statement posted on Facebook.
In its statement, PBS said it had “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.”
The news was first reported by Variety on Wednesday afternoon. The probe revealed allegations that Smiley had engaged in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates, Variety reported, citing unnamed sources.
Some witnesses “expressed concern that their employment status was linked to the status of a sexual relationship with Smiley,” Variety reported. They described the longtime TV personality as creating a “verbally abusive and threatening environment” and raised concerns about retaliation, according to Variety.
Smiley, in video and written statements released hours later, said PBS launched the probe without telling him about it. He only learned about the investigation after former colleagues and former staffers told him they were receiving phone calls from “some PBS investigator.” The investigator asked the individuals if Smiley ever made them feel uncomfortable in the workplace, Smiley said.
“Only after threatening a lawsuit,” Smiley said, did investigators agree to sit down with him for an interview. “And even then, their minds must have been made up,” Smiley said, because almost immediately after the three-hour session ended, the Variety story broke.
Smiley alleged investigators refused to look at certain documentation, refused to interview any of his current staff members, and “refused to give me any semblance of due process.”
“It is clear that this has gone too far,” he said. “And I for one intend to fight back. PBS overreacted and they launched a sloppy investigation. It’s time for a real conversation in this country about where the lines are, about how men and women can engage each other in the workplace. And I look forward to actively participating in that conversation.”
The “Tavis Smiley” show is produced by independent production company TS Media. While PBS has been airing the series since 2004, it does not employ Smiley or his staff.
“Tavis Smiley” is a 30-minute news show that airs weeknights and is filmed in Los Angeles. It features interviews with politicians, celebrities, athletes, and other high-profile guests.