PBS counters suspended host: ‘Tavis Smiley needs to get his story straight’


Tavis Smiley is pictured. | Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

Smiley pushed back against PBS during an interview on “Good Morning America” earlier Monday, saying that “PBS made a huge mistake” by halting distribution of his program. | Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

PBS traded blows with Tavis Smiley on Monday after the talk-show host publicly disputed allegations of sexual misconduct that led the network to suspend his talk show pending an investigation.

Smiley pushed back against the public broadcaster during an interview on “Good Morning America” earlier Monday, saying that “PBS made a huge mistake” by halting distribution of his program last Wednesday over what the network called “troubling allegations” of sexual impropriety.

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The comments, in which Smiley acknowledged having had relationships with women working on “Tavis Smiley” but denied any wrongdoing, sparked a strong pushback from PBS.

“Tavis Smiley needs to get his story straight,” the network said in a statement.

PBS criticized Smiley for admitting to engaging sexually with co-workers in one breath while chastising the network’s response to the allegations in the next.

Smiley, the statement said, should not have partaken in “multiple sexual relationships between the owner of a company and subordinates over many years particularly where employment decisions may be linked to sex.”

PBS also cast as hypocritical Smiley’s recent praise of women who have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct in the media and beyond.

“Witnesses who have bravely come forward to speak with the independent investigators retained by PBS report a fear of retribution for speaking out,” the statement said. “PBS stands by its decision to respect the anonymity of those who are afraid to come forward publicly.”

While the network declined to provide a formal update on the status of its investigation into the accusations leveled against Smiley, it added that “additional allegations are continuing to come to light.” Coupled with his public comments, the network said, the investigation “confirms PBS’ decision to indefinitely suspend the distribution of ‘Tavis Smiley.’”

The network announced last week that it was immediately suspending distribution of the late-night talk show, which is produced by TS Media, an independent production company, and aired on PBS.

Smiley quickly and defiantly replied by denying that he’d ever subjected anyone to sexual impropriety.

“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 said in a Facebook post.

Smiley’s interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” was his first since the suspension was issued last Wednesday. He is scheduled to appear on Fox News’ “Tucker” on Monday at 8 p.m.


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