LOS ANGELES -- PBS said Wednesday it has indefinitely suspended distribution of Tavis Smiley's talk show after an independent investigation uncovered "multiple, credible allegations" of misconduct by its host. PBS said it had engaged an outside law firm to investigate "troubling allegations" against the host, it said in a statement.
In a statement and video posted on Facebook, Smiley strongly denied allegations of sexual misconduct and vowed to "fight back" after what he called a "biased and sloppy investigation, which led to a rush to judgment, and trampling on a reputation that I have spent an entire lifetime trying to establish."
A PBS statement said its 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."
A representative for PBS declined to specify the nature of the allegations against Smiley.
His nightly program has aired on PBS since 2004 and airs on public television stations nationwide.
Variety cites sources close to the Smiley production as saying a law firm took reports from 10 witnesses -- a mix of men and women of differing races and employment levels within Smiley's organization. Most are former staffers.
Variety says the probe found that Smiley had sexual relationships with multiple subordinates and that some witnesses feared that their employment status was linked to the status of a sexual relationship with the TV and radio host.
Smiley's statement follows:
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.
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.
PBS launched a so-called investigation of me without ever informing me. I learned of the investigation when former staffers started contacting me to share the uncomfortable experience of receiving a phone call from a stranger asking whether, I had ever done anything to make them uncomfortable, and if they could provide other names of persons to call. After 14 seasons, that's how I learned of this inquiry, from the streets.
Only after being threatened with a lawsuit, did PBS investigators reluctantly agree to interview me for three hours.
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. 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.
My attorneys were sent a formal letter invoking a contractual provision to not distribute my programming, and that was it.
Put simply, PBS overreacted and conducted a biased and sloppy investigation, which led to a rush to judgment, and 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.
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.