Tavis Smiley has emerged from the shadows as he fights the bombshell misconduct allegations that prompted PBS to drop his show.
Smiley took to his website TavisSmiley.com to speak out and give an update on what life has been like behind the scenes as he battles for “the truth to be told.”
“My phone pinged with an urgent message to immediately call my longtime attorney. I asked the crew to take five, but looking at his watch, our line producer suggested that we break for lunch. I remember giving an assistant my lunch order, the fish special, and quickly rushing off to a private room to dial up my attorney.”
Smiley said his attorney had informed him of his firing, but a story in Variety he was reading simultaneously gave him far more information that he was ever privy to.
“I put my attorney on speaker, and while he was reading the letter, I was reading VARIETY, which, interestingly, had far more detail about my firing than what PBS had shared with us in its official correspondence.”
That moment was surreal for Smiley as he felt his world was immediately spiraling.
“I quickly grabbed my things, jumped in my car, and headed for home, feeling like a character in one of Spike Lee’s signature dolly shots, where the subject is standing still, but everything around them is moving really fast, whirling wildly.
“Things would only spin faster and faster over the next 24 hours and in the coming days, as I was compelled to publicly respond to false allegations from anonymous accusers. The worst kind of character assassination, I might add, when invective is hurled by invisible hands. And, then, all of a sudden, everything just stopped.
“No television show. No radio show. No podcast. No columns. No books. No speeches. No tour. No nothing.”
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.
Still, Smiley says a year later, the fight continues.
“I’m still waiting for the truth to be told, as we move ever closer to my day in court. Tragically, it is only because I sued PBS that I know anything at all about this case, save what PBS president and CEO, Paula Kerger, has coughed up in her myriad interviews and speeches.
“If I had just accepted my fate and gone away quietly, I would have no knowledge of how badly this case was bungled and biased from the very beginning.”
In light of the Me Too Movement and the current rise of sexual assault allegations being lodged left and right against men in Hollywood, Smiley asks the question about how can an everyday Joe battle against accusers.
“Question: What do everyday people do when they don’t have the resources to fight back against unsubstantiated and uncorroborated lies? Answer: They get crushed,” he said.
“It’s taken every bit of energy and ingenuity I can muster to fight this fight.”
Smiley ends his letter by alleging that PBS the network that “brought you Mr. Rogers, Big Bird and Barney… the “most trusted network in America” can no longer be trusted to be truthful or transparent.”
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.
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.
“They have repeatedly delayed depositions and threatened to shield Ms. Kerger altogether, arguing that she was too busy and knew nothing. They backed off of that threat,” Smiley continues.
“Sadly, we are a nation that has become accustomed to, indeed anesthetized, to abuses of power in private sector America. But we must never normalize abuse of power in the public sector. And this is why, one year later, I’m still fighting.
The truth matters.”