Tavis Smiley — TV Host To Pay $1.5 Million After Losing Legal Battle With PBS Over Sexual Assault Claims
Tavis Smiley is the latest to undergo a legal battle amid the #MeToo movement.
It was previously reported that film director Harvey Weinstein was convicted on two counts for sexual assault charges last month. Bill Cosby is also serving time in jail after he was convicted for a related crime.
As for Tavis Smiley, PBS sued him for breaching a morals clause as he was accused of sexual assault in 2017, and a jury sided with the network, awarding it $1.486 million earlier this week.
During the trial, several women took the stand and shared their experiences with Tavis Smiley, which included sexual harassment. While he insisted all of his at-work relationships were consensual, the jury wasn’t convinced.
A marketing pro also testified on how the accusations against Smiley could negatively impact the PBS brand as a whole. Tavis Smiley argued that he was the one who suffered a tarnished reputation amid the lawsuit, but again, the jury sided with PBS for the million-dollar award.
PBS said in a statement:
“We are pleased with the jury’s decision. PBS expects our producing partners to provide a workplace where people feel safe and are treated with dignity and respect. It was important for us to ensure that the courageous women who came forward were able to share their stories and that we continue to uphold the values and standards of our organization.”
The trial attorney for the network, Grace Speights, also said,
“With this jury verdict for PBS, companies now have another tool in their arsenal to ensure a safe and respectful workplace culture. Especially in the entertainment industry, the enforcement of the morals clause in contracts hadn’t been previously tested in courts. This decision could impact the next wave of litigation in the #MeToo movement.”
Tavis Smiley has yet to make a public comment. It’s not clear if he plans on filing an appeal.
He did share a cryptic message on Facebook back on Jan. 3.
Around that time, the details of the allegations against him were made public via PBS’s nearly 500-page investigative report. See the full report here.
What do you think about Tavis Smiley losing the $1.5 million case? Tell us in the comments.