PBS has suspended its longtime late-night talker Tavis Smiley after looking into allegations of sexual conduct against its host. Nearly immediately following the meeting, this story broke in Variety as an 'exclusive.' Indeed, I learned more about these allegations reading the Variety story than the PBS investigator shared with me, the accused, in our 3 hour face to face meeting.
"This investigation included interviews with witnesses as well as with Mr. Smiley", the statement read.
PBS did not specify the complaints against Smiley. "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", he continued.
This has gone too far.
"Tavis Smiley" has aired nightly on various PBS stations since 2004, but the network only distributes the show and doesn't finance its production or employ Smiley or his employees.
"If having a consensual relationship with a colleague years ago is the stuff that leads to this kind of public humiliation and personal destruction, heaven help us", he said.
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"PBS launched a so-called investigation of me without ever informing me", he said.
According to Variety, the investigation was conducted by Sarah Taylor Wirtz of the venerable Los Angeles law firm MSK, who interviewed ten witnesses, primarily former staffers, about their interactions with Smiley.
He has written numerous non-fiction books including titles such as Doing What's Right: How to Fight for What You Believe and Make a Difference (2000), Keeping the Faith: Stories of Love, Courage, Healing and Hope from Black America (2002), What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America (2006) and Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure (2011).
Other high-profile figures in public broadcasting have also faced allegations of misconduct in recent months.