Tavis Smiley sues PBS for firing him after sexual misconduct claims

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Tavis Smiley is now suing PBS over their decision to fire him after allegations of sexual misconduct emerged against him last year.

Smiley has defended himself against the claims that the host behaved inappropriately and that women he dated had feared for their jobs.

“I’ve spent the bulk of my career in public media, so filing a lawsuit against PBS was the last thing I wanted to do,” Tavis Smiley said in an interview with the Washington Post. “But litigation seems to be the only way to get at the truth.”

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In addition to alleging that PBS breached his contract and damaged his production company, Smiley’s suit alleges that the network’s tensions with Smiley had racial overtones, according to the Washington Post report.

PBS reportedly “presented complaints and hassled Mr. Smiley when he had African American guests who espoused controversial positions, and effectively tried to stop any such guests from appearing.”

As for PBS, Jennifer Rankin Byrne, the network’s vice president for corporate communications, said that lawsuit brought by Tavis Smiley was “meritless” and was being filed “to distract the public from his pattern of sexual misconduct in the workplace.”

Smiley denies any wrongdoing

Smiley had continued to maintain his innocence since the sexual misconduct allegations surfaced. During an interview on Good Morning America in December, Smiley insisted that he hadn’t acted inappropriately and that his relationships with his employees had all been consensual.

“I have never groped, I have never coerced, I have never exposed myself inappropriately to anyone. In 30 years, over six different networks, there has never been any allegation of that,” Smiley said.

When asked if he could see how his relationships with his subordinates might be an abuse of power, Smiley admitted that he understood that viewpoint but insisted that “office relationships” were not forbidden.

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“We don’t forbid them, Paula, because I don’t know where your heart’s going to lead you,” Smiley insisted. “I don’t know who you’re going to hang out with or date or fall in love with.”

As for whether or not the women he dated felt their jobs might be in danger, Smiley insisted, “I have never given anyone any employment instruction to do anything with anyone with whom I had a consensual relationship. Ever.”