Tavis Smiley disputes sexual misconduct allegations and suspension: 'PBS made a huge mistake'

ABCTavis Smiley on ‘Good Morning America.’
  • Tavis Smiley is defending himself following the suspension of his PBS talk show over allegations of sexual misconduct.
  • PBS suspended “Tavis Smiley” following an investigation that produced “multiple, credible allegations” of misconduct.
  • The allegations included engaging in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates and creating a verbally abusive and threatening environment.
  • Smiley appeared on “Good Morning America” on Monday to reiterate and expand on a defence he first made last week, following his show’s suspension.

Talk-show host Tavis Smiley continues to defend himself against the sexual misconduct allegations that resulted in the indefinite suspension of his eponymous PBS show earlier this month.

Smiley appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday, saying that PBS “made a huge mistake” in suspending him from its network.

PBS told Variety last week that it had “engaged an outside law firm to conduct an investigation immediately after learning of troubling allegations regarding Mr. Smiley.”The investigation found “multiple, credible allegations” of misconduct that included sexual relationships with multiple subordinates and creating a verbally abusive and threatening environment.

The 53-year-old host immediately defended himself in a video posted to Facebook last week, after the news broke of his show’s suspension.

“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,” he said in the video.

Smiley reiterated his defence on “GMA,” saying that the relationships he had with subordinates were consensual.

“I celebrate and applaud these women who had the courage to come out,” he said. He also expressed concern that, in today’s environment, “people end up being guilty simply by accusations.”

Smiley went on to deny the accusations that his show had a threatening work environment.

“The environments are intense at times,” he said. “I’m not an angry black man and this notion of a hostile environment just doesn’t fit.”

Following PBS’ suspension of his show, Walmart, a previous sponsor of “Tavis Smiley,” and an independent book distributor that Smiley worked with both distanced themselves from the host.

Smiley concluded his “GMA” interview by saying, “PBS made a huge mistake here.”

“They need to fix it. They need to correct it,” he said. “I’m going to do anything to protect my reputation.”

A PBS spokesperson responded to Business Insider’s request for comment on Smiley’s “GMA” interview with the following statement, pointing out inconsistencies in Smiley’s statements:

“Tavis Smiley needs to get his story straight.

First, today on Good Morning America, Mr. Smiley acknowledged he has had multiple sexual encounters with his employees, then struggled to recall the number of current employees with whom he has had sex. This contradicts his Facebook post from last week, where he cited only one previous relationship with an employee. Mr. Smiley even told viewers, ‘I don’t know where your heart’s going to lead you.’ PBS is certain that it should not lead to multiple sexual relationships between the owner of a company and subordinates over many years particularly where employment decisions may be linked to sex.

Second, Mr. Smiley claims he applauds women who have come forward, yet his company requires former and current employees to sign non-disclosure agreements. Witnesses who have bravely come forward to speak with the independent investigators retained by PBS report a fear of retribution for speaking out. PBS stands by its decision to respect the anonymity of those who are afraid to come forward publicly. Additional allegations are continuing to come to light since last week’s announcement.

In contrast, PBS has been consistent: PBS stands by the integrity of its investigation, which has been conducted by an outside firm with expertise in such matters. Mr. Smiley’s own words today coupled with the information discovered during the investigation confirms PBS’ decision to indefinitely suspend the distribution of ‘Tavis Smiley.'”

Watch the interview below:

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