Tavis Smiley Ordered to Pay PBS $1.5M for Violating Morals Clause

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: Talk show host, author, and political commentator Tavis Smiley speaks at a press conference at the National Press Club, January 12, 2012, in Washington, DC. (Credit: Albert H. Teich)

Tavis Smiley suffered a crushing defeat in a Washington, D.C. courtroom Wednesday, and was ordered to pay PBS $1.5 million for violating the network’s morality clause, the Associated Press reported.

Jurors heard testimony from six female employees, who said they were sexually harassed by the longtime TV host. Smiley denied the allegations and insisted the relationships were consensual. The jury deliberated for about a day before reaching a verdict. PBS applauded the jury’s decision following the three-week civil trial.

“We are pleased with the jury’s decision,” the network said in a statement. “PBS expects our producing partners to provide a workplace where people feel safe and are treated with dignity and respect. It was important for us to ensure that the courageous women who came forward were able to share their stories and that we continue to uphold the values and standards of our organization.”

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Smiley’s attorneys said they plan to appeal. “We are disappointed in the jury’s verdict but respect the process,” said attorney John Rubiner.

As previously reported, Smiley was accused of sexual misconduct dating back decades. Among his accusers was a female employee who said he “grabbed (her) buttocks” during a photo session. A male employee additionally claimed he heard Smiley say he was a breast man.

On Feb. 4, Smiley took to Facebook to say the allegations were false in a since deleted post.

“The false accusations that PBS leveled against me over two years ago, have threatened to ruin me professionally, economically, emotionally, and even spiritually,” he wrote at the time. “Our reputations are the most valuable things we own, and they have attempted to trash mine beyond redemption.”

PBS canceled Tavis Smiley, and parted ways with Smiley and his production company in late 2017. In response, he sued the network in February 2018, saying he was terminated because of racial bias. Smiley was the only solo black host of a show on the network.

The public broadcaster countersued him and said it wanted $1.9 million in production advances returned.