Tavis Smiley sues PBS over sexual misconduct allegations
Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images(NEW YORK) — Tavis Smiley has slapped PBS with a lawsuit claiming its investigation into sexual misconduct complaints against him is nothing but an excuse to suspend his long-running talk show.
In the lawsuit, obtained by Variety, Smiley claims PBS never viewed him as a “team player” and further accuses the public broadcaster of racial bias in its oversight of his program, alleging it was critical of controversial black guests, but not controversial white ones.
The suit goes on to accuse PBS of conducting audits of Smiley’s his books, but not those of shows managed by white people. “PBS’s audits are based on the insulting stereotypical premise that an African American owned business will have shoddy accounting records,” the suit claims.
In a statement Tuesday, a PBS spokesperson dismissed the accusations as “another example of Tavis Smiley’s attempts to distract the public from his pattern of sexual misconduct in the workplace.”
PBS reiterated its claim that, “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.”
Smiley has admitted to consensual relationships with employees, but claims they didn’t violate the policies of his production company, TS Media. He also insists that he did not have the power to hire and fire the women with whom he had relationships.
TS Media has reportedly laid off 20 people following the suspension of Smiley’s show.
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