It looks like Tavis Smiley is another journalist who has found himself on the long list of media insiders accused of alleged sexual misconduct. PBS has announced that it has indefinitely suspended airing his half-hour political talk show after an outside law firm conducted an investigation into “troubling” allegations against him that were inconsistent with what the network describes as its values and standards.
[See Update below]
“The totality of this information led to today’s decision,” PBS explained in a statement about what the law firm allegedly uncovered, according to Variety. Smiley’s organization produces the Tavis Smiley show that has appeared on PBS stations around the country for about 14 years. It’s just a distribution deal; neither Smiley nor his staffers work for PBS. The show, which currently airs in about 200 markets, is sponsored by Walmart and other companies.
The law firm reportedly interviewed 10 men and women, mostly former staffers, in the probe. According to what sources told Variety, Smiley supposedly had affairs with several subordinates, some of whom allegedly felt that their jobs depended upon a continuance of the sexual relationship, and that “witnesses described Smiley as creating a verbally abusive and threatening environment that went beyond what could be expected in a typical high-pressure work environment.”
Smiley has also authored 16 books, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and hosted a radio program on NPR for three years and on Public Radio International for about eight years. He has not commented publicly on the PBS suspension. He previously anchored BET Tonight from 1996 to 2001.
In a lengthy behind-the-scenes account published in the Observer in late February, a former TV producer for Smiley claimed that “Tavis’ misogyny is always creeping around, barely camouflaged by Midwestern good manners…”
Late last month, PBS cancelled Charlie Rose’s talk show over sexual harassment allegations. Rose was also fired from his gig as CBS This Morning co-host for the same reason. On Monday, The New Yorker magazine announced that it had parted ways with Washington-based reporter Ryan Lizza for engaging in what the publication believes is “improper sexual conduct.”
“Lizza, also a CNN contributor, is the latest liberal male journalist who has been swept up in a wave of sexual misconduct allegations,” The Daily Caller observed about the 10-year New Yorker employee and others in the media industry.
Amidst the sexual harassment scandals that engulfed her employer, Fox News Channel/Fox Business Channel host Melissa Francis correctly predicted last April that other media industry outlets and luminaries would get their turn to receive scrutiny.
As the PBS suspension of Tavis Smiley is a breaking story, check back for updates.
Update: In a Facebook post and accompanying video, Tavis Smiley called out PBS for a “biased and sloppy investigation” that lacked due process and said that he intends to fight back. In 30 years in the broadcast industry, Smiley claimed that “I have never groped, coerced, or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague.”