Last week, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, news broke that PBS suspended Tavis Smiley due to sexual harassment allegations.
In an exclusive obtained by Variety, it was reported that the talk show host was being investigated by a law firm hired by the public broadcasting channel.
"This investigation included interviews with witnesses as well as with Mr. Smiley. The inquiry uncovered multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS, and the totality of this information led to today’s decision," PBS said in a statement.
Smiley Sounds Off
"I have the utmost respect for women and celebrate the courage of those who have come forth to tell their truth. 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," Smiley wrote on the social media platform.
"PBS launched a so-called investigation of me without ever informing me. I learned of the investigation when former staffers started contacting me to share the uncomfortable experience of receiving a phone call from a stranger asking whether, I had ever done anything to make them uncomfortable, and if they could provide other names of persons to call. After 14 seasons, that’s how I learned of this inquiry, from the streets. Only after being threatened with a lawsuit, did PBS investigators reluctantly agree to interview me for three hours."
The Good Morning America Interview
To further clear his name, Smiley decided to do an exclusive interview with ABC's Good Morning America (GMA). During the interview, Smiley described the type of work environment he created for those assisting with production and administrative duties. Despite his intention to appear innocent, Smiley's answers made him and his work behavior appear questionable.
The 53-year-old revealed during his sit-down that he never coerced any female staffer to be with him sexually. However, he did admit to having several romantic relationships with women he's worked with over the years. "I certainly understand people can have a viewpoint any consensual relationship in the workplace is wrong ... but there are also other points of view on this," he shared.
"While we don't encourage [them] ... we don't forbid them," he said, speaking about the production set climate on his show.
Smiley even gave an example of when he told a prospective employee that he would rather date than hire her. He says that was one mistake he made during his tenure at PBS.
He also added that he thinks the women who have come forward against him are "brave" and he celebrates them. Though, Smiley thinks their intention to do so has nothing to do with him and everything to do with the recent climate of women coming forward to share their stories of sexual misconduct in the workplace, alluding that their allegations are just a part of a trend.
After watching his interview on GMA, PBS issued a statement based on the information Smiley shared.
"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," it read.
"Second, Mr. Smiley claims he applauds women who have come forward, yet his company requires former and current employees to sign nondisclosure 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 noted of Smiley's contradiction.
"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.'"
PBS was not the only one to sound off about Smiley's interview. Twitter users had a field day pointing out the inconsistencies Smiley provided in his interview and Facebook video.
Tavis Smiley admits to consensual sexual relationships for people who worked for him. Says one person is still on his staff. @GMA
— T.J. Holmes (@tjholmes) December 18, 2017
Tavis Smiley says employee handbook for his company doesn't forbid relationship between employees because "I don't know where your heart's going to lead you." @GMA — T.J. Holmes (@tjholmes) December 18, 2017
Scenes from the "Omarosa and Tavis Smiley Got Fired On The Same Day" party pic.twitter.com/9HVuY1morP
— Ragnarok Lobster (@eclecticbrotha) December 15, 2017
my favorite tavis smiley story is the one where he pledged $1 million to Texas Southern University, never donated or raised the money, and the school eventually took his name off its communication school. https://t.co/6lveRJfmOh — Joel D. Anderson (@byjoelanderson) December 17, 2017
I like how Tavis Smiley spends six minutes trying to explain he’s not a sexual harasser, just the sequel to “Boomerang” only to end things with an anecdote that presumably gave PBS the biggest smile.pic.twitter.com/Z3hS20YgJz
— Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick) December 18, 2017
The Cornel West essay I want is him addressing the sexual abuse allegations against his former bedfellow, Tavis Smiley — Jasmine Sha-Ree Sanders (@JasMoneyRecords) December 17, 2017
Watch Tavis Smiley's full interview:
Somewhere, someplace, Former President Obama who Smiley consistently ridiculed is shaking his head like this: