Another week, another fall from grace thanks to allegations of sexual misconduct. This time, the big name tumbling from a relatively lofty perch is talk show host Tavis Smiley.
According to various reports by The Associated Press, PBS has indefinitely suspended distribution of Tavis Smiley’s talk show in the wake of an independent investigation uncovering “multiple, credible allegations” of misconduct by Smiley. In making the announcement, PBS says it hired an outside law firm to investigate the allegations:
“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.”
Smiley had hosted a nightly program on PBS since 2004. The show will no longer air, effective immediately — at least for the time being.
Smiley called PBS’ decision an overreaction to allegations. Posting on social media, Smiley defended himself, saying he never harassed anyone, and said the one relationship the network learned about during the investigation had been consensual.
Smiley’s criticism of the investigation was harsh and pointed, as he claimed that PBS, “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.”
Smiley’s comments were similar to those of former Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor, who claims Minnesota Public Media fired him unfairly without allowing to have the opportunity to defend himself. That defense went nowhere, and it doesn’t look like Smiley will get much traction with PBS either. Meanwhile, Smiley is supposed to be in the middle of a development deal with Warner Bros. TV to adapt his book about Michael Jackson’ last days and death into a TV series. And, in January, Smiley is slated to kick off a 40-city tour of his theater production about Martin Luther King Jr. This production is also based on a Smiley book.
Now, thanks to these allegations, those productions may be in jeopardy. One relationship Smiley knows is going away is his connection with mega-retailer Walmart. The store had been a major sponsor of Smiley’s program, as well as the upcoming theater show. However, Walmart says they are “suspending our relationship with Mr. Smiley, pending the outcome of the PBS investigation.”
Given the direction the PBS investigation has gone so far, that doesn’t look good for Mr. Smiley.
Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent public relations Agency. The firm was honored as PR Firm of the Year by The American Business Awards, and has been named to the Inc. 500 List. Torossian is author of the best-selling "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations." For more of Ronn Torossian's reports, Go Here Now.
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