Tavis Smiley Sues PBS for Breach of Conduct

Smiley claims PBS used a sexual misconduct investigation as a pretext to get rid of him but the network says the decision to suspend his show was justified

Smiley has repeatedly said PBS never presented him with the names of his accusers, specific allegations, or details of an investigation into his workplace relationships that led up to his dismissal.

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 claims that PBS breached its contract when they chose to suspend his show. "But litigation seems to be the only way to get at the truth".

'In fact, PBS had no intention of providing Mr. Smiley with an opportunity to defend himself because it had already decided that this allegation provided a flawless opportunity to rid itself of its tense relationship with TSM and Mr. Smiley, ' it states.

Talk show host Tavis Smiley speaks during the "Tavis Smiley" panel at the PBS portion of the 2011 Winter TCA press tour held at the Langham Hotel on January 9, 2011 in Pasadena, California.

The suit also said that "over the years, PBS has acted in a racially hostile manner" against Smiley, who has been "the only person of color to have served as the solo host of a daily national show in the history of PBS". However, when Mr. Smiley brought equally controversial (if not more so) white figures, PBS remained silent.

Based on this incomplete, trumped-up investigation, and in violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, PBS chose to use a technical provision in its contract with TSM to stop distributing Tavis Smiley - the only nightly television show featuring a person of color as the host. PBS' official website continues to include a home page for the show "Tavis Smiley", including interviews through December 12.

A spokesperson for PBS told The Wrap that Smiley's lawsuit against the network is "meritless" and an attempt "to distract the public from his pattern of sexual misconduct in the workplace". Jennifer Rankin Byrne, Communications VP for PBS, also reiterated an independent law firm's investigation found Smiley had "multiple sexual encounters with subordinates over many years".

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.

"I have never groped, I have never coerced, I have never exposed myself inappropriately to anyone".

Smiley does admit that he had romantic relationships with co-workers during his time as a TV host, but he says the interactions were always consensual.

Smiley has since continued to defend workplace relationships. It signed a new contract with Smiley's Los Angeles-based production company in November, coincidentally just as the "Me Too" movement against workplace harassment was beginning to crest.

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