Indiana Native Tavis Smiley Suspended By PBS After Sexual Misconduct Claims
LOS ANGELES, CA – Talk show host Tavis Smiley, who grew up in northern Indiana and went to Indiana University, is off the air after being accused of sexual misconduct.
PBS says it is suspending distribution of Smiley's late-night talk show and calls the multiple accusations "credible." The network has hired an outside law firm to investigate Smiley's behavior.
An article in "Variety" says Smiley is accused of having sex with those who worked for him, making some feel like they had to have a sexual relationship with Smiley in order to keep their jobs.
Smiley grew up in Bunker Hill, Indiana, and had moved to Miami County as a young boy when his stepfather was transferred to Grissom Air Force Base in nearby Peru. He graduated from Maconaquah High School.
Smiley attended Indiana University in the 1980s, but did not receive his bachelor’s degree until 2003.
IU named the atrium of its School of Public and Environmental Affairs in honor of Smiley in 2009. Smiley also donated $50,000 to the university that year to establish the Tavis Smiley Scholarship program.
Smiley responded to the claims on his Facebook page Wednesday:
"On the eve of the 15th season and 3,000th episode of my nightly talk show, I was as shocked as anyone else by PBS’ announcement today. Variety knew before I did.
"I have the utmost respect for women and celebrate the courage of those who have come forth to tell their truth. 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.
"Never. Ever. Never.
"PBS launched a so-called investigation of me without ever informing me. I learned of the investigation when former staffers started contacting me to share the uncomfortable experience of receiving a phone call from a stranger asking whether, I had ever done anything to make them uncomfortable, and if they could provide other names of persons to call. After 14 seasons, that’s how I learned of this inquiry, from the streets.
"Only after being threatened with a lawsuit, did PBS investigators reluctantly agree to interview me for three hours.
"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. The PBS investigators refused to review any of my personal documentation, refused to provide me the names of any accusers, refused to speak to my current staff, and refused to provide me any semblance of due process to defend myself against allegations from unknown sources. Their mind was made up. Almost 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.
"My attorneys were sent a formal letter invoking a contractual provision to not distribute my programming, and that was it.
"Put simply, PBS overreacted and conducted a biased and sloppy investigation, which led to a rush to judgment, and trampling on a reputation that I have spent an entire lifetime trying to establish.
"This has gone too far. And, I, for one, intend to fight back.
"It’s time for a real conversation in America, so men and women know how to engage in the workplace. I look forward to actively participating in that conversation."
Photo credit: Getty Images / Phillip Faraone