Tavis Smiley Sues PBS Over ‘Biased’ Sexual Misconduct Investigation and Firing

Tavis Smiley visits Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, California.
Tavis Smiley visits Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, California. Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

Tavis Smiley filed a lawsuit against PBS in superior court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, February 20, Us Weekly confirms. The talk show host, 53, claims the network was “biased” in its investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations made against him.

“PBS was prepared to make its decision to suspend distribution of the show without interviewing Mr. Smiley and providing him with an opportunity to respond to specific allegations,” reads the complaint, which also claims the probe was carried out “in violation of norms and procedures for conducting workplace investigations.”

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that “PBS has acted in a racially hostile manner” against Smiley over the years, noting that he has been “the only person of color to have served as the solo host of a daily national show in the history of PBS.”

In a statement to Us, PBS said the complaint is unfounded: “This meritless lawsuit is yet another example of Tavis Smiley’s attempts to distract the public from his pattern of sexual misconduct in the workplace. As PBS has consistently stated, following receipt of a complaint alleging inappropriate conduct by Mr. Smiley, PBS hired an independent law firm to conduct an investigation. The ongoing investigation, which included a lengthy interview with Mr. Smiley, revealed that he had multiple sexual encounters with subordinates over many years and yielded credible allegations of additional misconduct inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS. That is what led PBS to the decision to indefinitely suspend distribution of Mr. Smiley’s program. The notion that PBS’ decision to suspend distribution of the program was made for any reason aside from Mr. Smiley’s own behavior is ridiculous and false.”

PBS suspended Smiley’s self-titled late-night talk show in December after receiving what it said were “multiple, credible allegations” of sexual misconduct against the host. Smiley has denied any wrongdoing, writing in a Facebook post in December, “I have never groped, coerced or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career, covering 6 networks over 30 years. … 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.”

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