Tavis Smiley issues video response to claims of sexual misconduct

The now embattled talk show host says network 'overreacted' with 'sloppy investigation'

(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Tavis Smiley is denying any wrongdoing after PBS suspended distribution of his nightly talk show over claims of sexual misconduct.

“On the eve of the 15th season and 3,000th episode of my nightly talk show, I was as shocked as anyone else by PBS’ announcement today. Variety knew before I did,” Smiley said in a video message response.

“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.

“Never. Ever. Never.”

In a statement released Wednesday, PBS said that it launched an independent investigation through a law firm that included interviews with the accusers and Smiley.

Smiley, however, says he knew of no investigation until former staffers began reaching out to him after they received phone calls from investigators trying to determine if Smiley had been inappropriate on the job.

“After 14 seasons, that’s how I learned of this inquiry, from the streets,” Smiley added. “Only after being threatened with a lawsuit, did PBS investigators reluctantly agree to interview me for three hours.”

Smiley does, however, admit to previously having a “consensual relationship” with a colleague.

“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.

He continues:

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. Their mind was made up. Almost immediately following the meeting, this story broke in Variety as an ‘exclusive.’ Indeed, I learned more about these allegations reading the Variety story than the PBS investigator shared with me, the accused, in our 3 hour face to face meeting.

Smiley slammed PBS’ “sloppy investigation” and accused the network of overreacting.

Their “rush to judgment,” he said, is “trampling on a reputation that I have spent an entire lifetime trying to establish.”

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