PBS Released Findings Discovered During Tavis Smiley’s Sexual Misconduct Investigation and He Responds

Famed journalist Tavis Smiley has been M.I.A. since his indefinite suspension from PBS Broadcasting following accusations of sexual misconduct in 2017. Former coworkers and subordinates accused Smiley of making inappropriate comments or unwanted advances. Smiley denied all allegations and claimed that all relationships were consensual. But recent findings from the report allege that Smiley used his position as a leader to his advantage. Smiley stands by his claims that he is innocent.

Tavis Smiley
Tavis Smiley 2016 | Earl Gibson III/Getty Images

Tavis Smiley suspended from PBS amidst allegations of sexual misconduct

In December 2017, Variety exclusively reported that Smiley was suspended from the broadcasting company amid an investigation that was pending following sexual misconduct allegations made against him. 

Tavis Smiley
Tavis Smiley 2009 | Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images for Meet The Press

“Effective today, PBS has indefinitely suspended distribution of ‘Tavis Smiley,’ produced by TS Media, an independent production company,” the public broadcaster said in a statement. “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.”

Smiley had been working with PBS since 2004. Sources told Variety that PBS hired attorney, Sarah Taylor Wirtz of the firm MSK, to oversee the investigation. MSK was said to have taken reports from 10 witnesses who were employed presently or in the past with Smiley’s company. It was alleged that Smiley had multiple sexual relationships or encounters with his female subordinates and used intimidation practices to get what he wanted. 

Tavis Smiley responds to sexual misconduct allegations and suspension from PBS

Smiley denied all claims made against him. He first posted a statement on his Facebook account, which read in part:

Tavis Smiley
Tavis Smiley 2007 | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

“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.”


His statement was accompanied by a video of him explaining that he was shocked to discover the allegations and that he found his suspension unjust and a rash decision. Smiley did, however, admit to having consensual relationships with women whom he worked with over the years. 

Source: YouTube

According to Smiley, the first he ever heard of the allegations or suspension was from Variety’s exclusive. He made it known that he intended to fight the allegations and clear his name. He sued PBS for breach of contract and was featured on ABC News in a sit-down interview. 

PBS investigative report reveals details of Tavis Smiley’s alleged sexual misconduct 

Reports surfaced in early Jan. 2020 that unsealed reports from the investigation were leaked. 

The report cites allegations from multiple women, some of whom say they had consensual relationships with Smiley. The earliest incident reported dated back to 2000. All women claim to have been aware that Smiley had the upper hand professionally.

Tavis Smiley
Tavis Smiley 2009 | William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

One former employee said that Smiley made inappropriate comments, like offering to “buy you some stuff, some panties” from Victoria’s Secret. She initially laughed his comments off but claim he continued to push the idea. She was eventually laid off and attributes her firing to knowing too much about Smiley’s inappropriate behavior. 

Other women said they hesitated to report Smiley’s behavior out of fear of retaliation. They claimed that Smiley oversaw the human resources department. 

Tavis Smiley
Tavis Smiley | Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Smiley shot back at the reports, breaking his year-long social media hiatus to respond. 

“A weak case you play in the press, a strong case you play out in a court of law,” he wrote on Facebook on Jan. 3. “I look forward to my day in court February 10, which I have finally been granted after 2 years of fighting.”

Court hearings are scheduled for next month.