Tavis Smiley is just the latest public figure to be accused of sexual harassment, with PBS suspending his nightly talk show soon after allegations were made public.
The veteran journalist has denied all allegations of harassment, admitting in a Good Morning America interview that while he’s had consensual sexual relationships with co-workers over his 30-year-career, he “never groped, never coerced, never exposed myself inappropriately to anyone.”
He went on to praise the women and men who have come forward with truthful accusations against their abusers, while saying it’s important not to conflate allegations with actual guilt.
“I want to make sure we don’t lose all sense of nuance and proportionality in this conversation because if we do, people end up being guilty simply by accusation. I’m not an angry black man and this notion of a hostile environment just doesn’t fit.”
Still, many believe that sleeping with a subordinate, consensually or not, is an abuse of power. Smiley understands that perspective, but insists he never wielded his power to unfairly promote or punish anyone he dated.
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He also called out his network, saying it was a “huge mistake” for PBS to suspend his show. It appears the station has responded in a statement obtained by CNN, saying Smiley “needs to get his story straight.”
“First, today on Good Morning America, Mr. Smiley acknowledged he has had multiple sexual encounters with his employees… This contradicts his Facebook post from last week, where he cited only one previous relationship with an employee,” the PBS statement said.
The public broadcasting organization said last week it has hired an outside law firm to handle the investigation “following receipt of a complaint.”
“The totality of the investigation, which included Mr. Smiley, revealed a pattern of multiple relationships with subordinates over many years, and other conduct inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS.”
PBS is the distributor for Smiley’s show, but it’s produced by TS Media, Smiley’s production company. Smiley is not employed by PBS.
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.