Tavis Smiley’s fight against sex assault claims hits roadblock

A Washington, D.C., judge denied Smiley’s request to compel PBS to hand over certain documents in his case.

Talk show host Tavis Smiley. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Beleaguered broadcaster Tavis Smiley is having a hard time defending himself against sexual misconduct allegations that prompted PBS to drop his show, according to a published report. He is also having difficulty obtaining documents he believes could support his claims that the network is racially hostile, the report says.

Smiley cannot force the public television network to turn over documents related to every romantic relationship that a PBS supervisor has had with a subordinate dating back to the early 2000s, The Hollywood Reporter reports.

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Smiley sued PBS in February after executives dropped his show. and the following month, the network filed its own suit, claiming Smiley violated a morals clause in his contract, according to THR. In the legal action, PBS is seeking to win back the almost $2 million it paid Smiley in salary.

On Thursday, a judge in Washington, D.C., denied Smiley’s request to compel PBS to hand over the documents detailing supervisors’ relationships with subordinates, writes the entertainment publication.

PBS argued that the documents were not relevant to Smiley’s case and situation. Judge Anthony Epstein sided with PBS, the report says.

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Smiley “is not entitled to conduct a fishing expedition,” the judge wrote. Epstein added that if Smiley has information that PBS “tolerated” behavior that is “comparable” to the behavior in which Smiley is alleged to have practiced, then “targeted discovery may be appropriate.”

Smiley also is seeking information related to PBS’ decision to cancel his show and claims that the network is “racially hostile.” He says that the allegations against him were a way to conceal the toxic atmosphere.

The judge, however, did not see matters Smiley’s way.

Smiley “does not provide any specific information supporting its allegation that PBS would not have terminated the distribution if he were not African-American.”

Subordinates brought the sexual misconduct allegations against Smiley late last year.

In a legal filing reported on by The Hollywood Reporter, Smiley allegedly admitted to “probably” telling sex jokes in the office and acknowledged that he “may” have sent pornographic images to subordinates.