Tavis Smiley is defending himself after sexual assault allegations made against him led to the suspension of his show last week.
“PBS made a huge mistake here,” the talk show host, 53, said during a Good Morning America interview on Monday, December 18.
Smiley, whose self-titled 30-minute interview show has aired since 2004, said he will do “anything to protect his reputation.” Distribution of the show was suspended after the network said an investigation found “credible allegations” following the “receipt of a complaint.” Variety reported the suspension on Wednesday, December 13.
The network provided further details the following day in a statement that said: “The totality of the investigation, which included Mr. Smiley, revealed a pattern of multiple relationships with subordinates over many years, and other conduct inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS.
“I have never groped. I have never coerced or exposed myself to anyone inappropriately,” Smiley told the morning talk show when asked about his denial of any wrongdoing.
He continued: “I celebrate and applaud the women that came out and told the truth and lead us to create healthy workspaces. At the same time, I want to make sure we don’t lose all proportionality in this because if we do, people end up guilty by accusation.”
He added on GMA: “I certainly understand people who have the viewpoint that any consensual relationship in the workplace is wrong, but there are also other points of view on this … while we do not encourage office relationships, we do not forbid them, either. And we don’t forbid them because I don’t know where your heart is going to lead you. I don’t know who you’re going to hang out with, or date, or fall in love with. [There may be] millions of Americans watching right now who met their spouses at work.”
The network fired back shortly after Smiley’s Monday morning appearance. “Tavis Smiley needs to get his story straight,” a spokeswoman for PBS said in an email to CNN’s Brian Stelter.
“First, today on Good Morning America, Mr. Smiley acknowledged he has had multiple sexual encounters with his employees,” the statement said. “This contradicts his Facebook post from last week, where he cited only one previous relationship with an employee.”
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