Tavis Smiley Suspended Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations
PBS has suspended Tavis Smiley’s late-night talk show, amid misconduct allegations. The broadcaster announced,
“Effective today, PBS has indefinitely suspended distribution of ‘Tavis Smiley,’ produced by TS Media, an independent production company. PBS engaged an outside law firm to conduct an investigation immediately after learning of troubling allegations regarding Mr. Smiley. 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.”
According to reports, PBS hired attorney Sarah Taylor Wirtz of the firm MSK to oversee an investigation into Smiley’s behavior after receiving allegations of misconduct by Smiley, who hosts and produces the talk show. According to sources, MSK took reports from 10 witnesses, a mix of men and women of different races and employment levels in Smiley’s organization, most of them former staffers. The investigation found credible allegations that Smiley had engaged in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates, sources said.
Some witnesses interviewed expressed concern that their employment status was linked to the status of a sexual relationship with Smiley. In general, witnesses described Smiley as creating a verbally abusive and threatening environment that went beyond what could be expected in a typical high-pressure work environment. Several expressed concerns about retaliation.
Smiley has hosted “Tavis Smiley,” a half-hour interview program that airs weeknights on PBS member stations since it premiered in 2004. In a February piece in the Observer, Jacques Hyzagi, a former producer on Smiley’s television show, wrote that Smiley’s “misogyny is always creeping around, barely camouflaged by Midwestern good manners.” Hyzagi described Smiley picking up a woman at the Orlando airport and bringing her along on a reporting trip as a “f*ck buddy”; alleged that Smiley had a romantic relationship with another producer; and quoted Smiley denigrating PBS executives.
Smiley currently has a development deal with Warner Bros. Television.