Tavis Smiley cited racism in his lawsuit against PBS that was filed on Tuesday, the Washington Post reported. While the precise contents of the lawsuit against the public media organization were not disclosed, the Post wrote that the “tension” between him and PBS “was racial in nature.”
Smiley was suspended from his perch as host of his eponymous show late last year amid a flurry of similar accusations against other powerful men in media, business and other fields. He told the Post on Tuesday that he sued PBS to find “the truth” and to restore his reputation.
“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 told the Post on Tuesday. “But litigation seems to be the only way to get at the truth.”
In December, Smiley was accused of having sexual relations with “multiple subordinates” and “some witnesses interviewed expressed concern that their employment status was linked to the status of a sexual relationship with Smiley.” He was also accused of creating a threatening and verbally abusive work environment.
PBS, for its part, has been adamant about the suspension and called Smiley’s lawsuit a diversion from that same “truth” the longtime TV and radio personality said he was seeking through courts. Not only was Smiley’s legal tactics “meritless,” the lawsuit was designed “to distract the public from his pattern of sexual misconduct in the workplace,” PBS’ vice president for corporate communications Jennifer Rankin Byrne told the Post in a brief statement.
Unlike the throngs of other powerful men facing similar accusations from their respective workplaces as well as individual women, Smiley has been anything but silent. He launched a town hall tour later last month in Los Angeles called “The Conversation: Women, Men and the Workplace.” Days later, PBS launched its own five-part town hall series about sexual harassment titled #MeToo, Now What?”
Smiley had worked for PBS for 14 years and had just signed a new contract in November, but now his future with the station was in question as its due process played out ahead of the expected legal showdown.
The veteran journalist has found a new job in the meantime working for The Word Network, a religious cable TV network whose audience is primarily Black, according to USA Today. “The Upside with Tavis Smiley” offers inspirational content.