Fired host Tavis Smiley sues PBS for breach of contract

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Fired PBS host Tavis Smiley announced Tuesday that he will sue the Public Broadcasting Service for firing him over sexual misconduct allegations last year.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Smiley said a lawsuit against PBS was “the last thing I wanted to do.”

“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,” Smiley said. “But litigation seems to be the only way to get at the truth.”


The former talk show host argues the network illegally breached his contract when it fired him, arguing that the termination also damaged his production company.

In a statement to The Hill, PBS called Smiley’s lawsuit “meritless” and an attempt to distract from “his pattern of sexual misconduct.”

“Today’s meritless lawsuit is yet another example of Tavis Smiley’s attempts to distract the public from his pattern of sexual misconduct in the workplace,” a PBS spokesperson said.

“The notion that PBS’ decision to suspend distribution of the program was made for any reason aside from Mr. Smiley’s own behavior is ridiculous and false.”

Smiley was indefinitely suspended in December following an investigation from an outside law firm that reported finding “credible allegations” regarding sexual misconduct.

Smiley has admitted to numerous relationships with staffers over the years while maintaining he was not guilty of sexual harassment. Variety reported in December that some employees feared their employment statuses were linked to the relationships.

“PBS engaged an outside law firm to conduct an investigation immediately after learning of troubling allegations regarding Mr. Smiley. This investigation included interviews with witnesses as well as with Mr. Smiley. The inquiry uncovered multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS, and the totality of this information led to today’s decision,” the network said last year.

Smiley defended the concept of consensual workplace sexual relationships in a Fox News appearance last year.

“Let’s face it, nobody is working 40-hour weeks anymore, we are working 40-, 50-, 70-, 80-hour weeks. Where else are you going to meet people in this business?” Smiley said at the time on Fox News’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Smiley’s firing came as accusations of sexual harassment have been leveled against a number of powerful men in the media, politics, business and beyond in recent months.

Updated: 6:19 p.m. 

Tags Lawsuit PBS Sexual harassment Sexual misconduct Tavis Smiley Tavis Smiley

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