Following a spate of sexual misconduct allegations that prompted PBS to cancel “Tavis Smiley” in late 2017 and led to an ongoing legal dispute between the broadcaster and former talk show host, Smiley has taken to Facebook to defend himself ahead of the trial, which begins Monday.
Citing a famous line from Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” — John Proctor’s “Because it is my name” — Smiley contends that the PBS accusations have threatened to ruin him “professionally, economically, emotionally, and even spiritually.”
He had in January lost a bid to toss out PBS’ countersuit that alleges he violated his contract with the broadcaster by having sex with his subordinates. Smiley, in his Facebook post, acknowledged that he had “consensually dated persons with whom I had worked” over his 30-year broadcast career and “[his] truth might represent professional misjudgment, albeit decades ago.”
Per a recently unsealed report from a PBS-hired external investigator, Smiley’s alleged misconduct spans decades and includes inappropriate sexual comments, touching, verbal abuse and sexual relationships with subordinates and guests on his show. Several women who had sexual relationships with him came forward noted the unequal power dynamics at play, given his seniority.
“The truth is that PBS conducted a sham investigation and fired me based on arbitrary and esoteric ‘standards and values’ that were certainly not applied evenly to the talent throughout the organization, that they relied on false statements from anonymous sources who never even worked for my company, and that other witness testimony was utterly discredited, unsubstantiated or completely uncorroborated,” wrote Smiley on Facebook.
“The folk who pilot PBS are real people; people who are fallible and flawed, people who make mistakes, people with prejudices, people who hold grudges,” he added. “The same people who broadcast Sesame Street are not above starting a street fight.”
PBS also accuses Smiley of failing to return $1.9 million in unused funds from the production of his show.
Here is Smiley’s full statement: