Tavis Smiley Accused of Extensive Sexual Abuse in PBS Investigative Report

Tavis Smiley (Credit: The Smiley Group)

A newly unsealed report by a PBS external investigator accuses former talk show host Tavis Smiley of sexual misconduct dating back decades.

The report obtained by Deadline alleges Smiley had sex with subordinates and guests on his show; engaged in inappropriate touching; made unwanted sexual comments; and was verbally abusive.

PBS ended his late-night talk show, Tavis Smiley, in December 2017 and fired the host amid “multiple, credible allegations” of misconduct.

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Following his dismissal, the network hired an external team to investigate the former host. The report on the investigation was unsealed this week in connection with a lawsuit related to Smiley’s dismissal.

Among the allegations detailed in the PBS report:

  • An anonymous female employee said Smiley texted her wanting to “hook up.” The woman declined the invitation and said she just wanted to do her job. Smiley is said to have responded that he could fire her before the weekend, then rehire her on Monday so they could hook up on the weekend when she was not employed.
  • A woman who worked with Smiley in 2000 claimed he “grabbed (her) buttocks” during a photo session. The woman additionally alleged that Smiley brushed up against her with his penis, then pretended it as an accident. Later, she asked for a letter of reference at the end of her internship, but Smiley said no unless she came to his house at 11 p.m. She said she declined.
  • Around 2002, another woman said she was lying on the floor, on her back, fixing wires in Smiley’s studio. The talk show host allegedly told her “this is the way I would like to see you more often.”
  • A male employee claimed he heard Smiley say he was a “titty man.”
  • Smiley is alleged to have told a female producer “wow you got big ole titties for a producer of public radio.”
  • Several women interviewed for the report claimed they had consensual relationships with Smiley, but said that the power dynamic made the situations uncomfortable.
  • One woman claimed that when she visited Smiley’s house, he opened the door and was not wearing pants. He later asked her to have a threesome with him and his executive producer, who, the report claimed, was seen naked in Smiley’s bed.

After his dismissal, Smiley fired back at PBS by accusing the network of racial bias, and denied all of the allegations against him. In a December 2017 television interview, he insisted the allegations were false.

“I’ve never groped. I’ve never coerced, I’ve never exposed myself inappropriately to anyone in 30 years,” Smiley said. “I’ve made mistakes — I’m human. I’m not perfect. But it doesn’t rise to the level of wrongful termination.”

The investigative report on his alleged misconduct was filed amid Smiley’s breach of contract lawsuit against PBS. The network has countersued and asked for $1.9 million in production advances to be returned.

In a ruling Thursday, Smiley lost a bid to have the network’s legal claim thrown out.