Obama Hater Tavis Smiley Booted Off PBS, Says He’ll Fight Sexual Harassment Allegations

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Just weeks after PBS ended Charlie Rose’s interview show following claims of sexual harassment, the public broadcaster has suspended another late-night talk show amid sexual misconduct allegations against host Tavis Smiley.

Smiley is a well-known critic of former U.S. President Barack Obama. He expressed pessimism about the first Black president’s legacy on racial issues. Black Americans lost ground in every major economic category in the era of Obama, Smiley said, according to a January 2016 Huffington Post interview.

After learning of troubling allegations against Smiley, PBS said in a statement that it hired an outside law firm to conduct an investigation.

The investigation included interviews of Smiley and 10 witnesses — mostly former employees, men and women of different races and employment levels in Smiley’s organization. There were multiple credible allegations of “conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS,” the statement said.

Smiley has hosted the half-hour “Tavis Smiley” interview program weeknights on PBS member stations since 2004. Filmed in Los Angeles, it aired on public TV stations nationwide. PBS distributed the series, but did not employ Smiley or any of his staff, Variety reported. The show is produced by TS Media, an independent production company. It received four NAACP Image Awards and was underwritten in part by Wal-Mart.

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Witnesses alleged that Smiley had sexual relationships with multiple subordinates. Some said they were concerned that their jobs were linked to the status of a sexual relationship with him. He created a verbally abusive and threatening environment and some witnesses said they feared retaliation, Variety reported.

In a statement posted on Facebook this week, Smiley said, “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.”

In the same message, Smiley also criticized the way the conversation is going about how men and women engage in the workplace. PBS overreacted, he said, and he intends to fight back.

“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.”

African Americans were “too deferential” to Obama, Smiley said, according to a 2016 Huffington Post report. He said black America got “caught up in the symbolism of the Obama presidency.” They were lenient and hesitated to criticize Obama’s policies. “We haven’t pressed as hard as we should on the substance of this presidency,” he said.

Smiley rose to fame in the mid-1990s as the host of “BET Tonight,” an evening public affairs program on the African American-oriented cable channel. His misogyny was “barely camouflaged,” a witness said in a Variety report:

“In a February piece in the Observer, Jacques Hyzagi, a former producer on Smiley’s television show, wrote that Smiley’s “misogyny is always creeping around, barely camouflaged by Midwestern good manners.” Hyzagi described Smiley picking up a woman at the Orlando airport and bringing her along on a reporting trip as a “fuck buddy”; alleged that Smiley had a romantic relationship with another producer; and quoted Smiley denigrating PBS executives.”

Smiley has projects in the works as part of a development deal with Warner Bros. Television. One of the projects is an adaptation of Smiley’s book, “Before You Judge Me: The Triumph and Tragedy of Michael Jackson’s Last Days.” He is working with Bad Robot, an entertainment company led by J. J. Abrams, Variety reported.

Tavis Smiley
Tavis Smiley. Photo: Variety