Suspended PBS host Tavis Smiley plans to 'fight back' against sexual misconduct allegations

Smiley was named to TIME's "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2009.

ByABC News
December 14, 2017, 9:18 AM

— -- Talk show host Tavis Smiley pushed back against allegations of sexual misconduct after PBS suspended the distribution of his namesake show on Wednesday, citing "multiple, credible allegations of conduct" that it said were inconsistent with its values.

“I have the utmost respect for women and celebrate the courage of those who have come forth to tell their truth,” Smiley said in a statement released on Facebook after the suspension was announced. “To be clear, I have never groped, coerced or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career, covering six networks over 30 years.

“This has gone too far. And I, for one, intend to fight back,” he added.

Smiley, named one of TIME's 100 “Most Influential People in the World” in 2009, said he was "shocked" by the suspension and accused the network of "trampling" his reputation.

“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,” he said.

“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,” he added. “Their mind was made up.”

Smiley said he first heard about PBS’s investigation from staffers who said they were contacted as a part of the public broadcaster’s probe, which he referred to as “biased and sloppy.”

“PBS launched a so-called investigation of me without ever informing me,” he said. “Only after being threatened with a lawsuit, did PBS investigators reluctantly agree to interview me for three hours.

“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,” Smiley added.

He said he learned more about the investigation from reading a report in Variety, which first reported the suspension Wednesday afternoon

Citing unnamed sources, Variety said investigators took reports from 10 witnesses as part of the probe. It described the witnessess as a “mix of men and women of different races and employment levels in Smiley’s organization, most of them former staffers.”

PBS confirmed the suspension in a statement on Wednesday.

"PBS engaged an outside law firm to conduct an investigation immediately after learning of troubling allegations regarding Mr. Smiley,” a PBS spokesperson said. “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,” the statement added.

The suspension comes less than a month after PBS fired veteran journalist Charlie Rose after multiple women levied claims of sexual misconduct against him.