At the tail end of last year, we reported that PBS had suspended Tavis Smiley’s show indefinitely. The network released a statement saying that they hired an outside firm to conduct an investigation into claims that Smiley had been guilty of sexual misconduct on the job.
The network refused to discuss the nature of the allegations. But Variety, reported that Smiley had romantic relationships with his employees. Many believed their employment status was contingent upon these sexual relationships. Others said that Smiley created a verbally abusive and threatening work environment.
In an interview with “Good Morning America,” Smiley acknowledged that he’d had relationships with his employees, his subordinates, but he insisted that his connection to his employees never played a part in their employment status.
Since PBS has yet to release the details of their investigation, we don’t have both sides of the story. But all that aside, Tavis Smiley has decided to sue the network.
According to The Washington Post, the suit alleges that PBS breached their contract with Smiley’s production company and owes damages. Smiley claims that PBS used “trumped up” harassment charges as a reason to end the Tavis Smiley show, which the network had distributed for 14 years. Smiley claims that there was already tension between his company and PBS due to race.
The filing document states:
“[PBS] has presented complaints and hassled Mr. Smiley when he had African American guests who espoused controversial positions, and effectively tried to stop any such guests from appearing. By contrast, PBS never raised editorial issues or hassled Mr. Smiley when he had white guests who espoused equally controversial positions (if not even more controversial.”
In a statement to The Washington Post, a representative for PBS said that the lawsuit was “meritless.”
Do you think Smiley’s claims that PBS fired him due to racism will hold up in court?