Tavis Smiley takes on #MeToo movement

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Tavis Smiley at the 33rd annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards in Los Angeles on April 27, 2016. Smiley said that he isn’t just angry at PBS for firing him on sexual misconduct charges. He’s angry about his depiction in the media. | Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP, File

Tavis Smiley has either a lot of nerve or a lot of courage.

You decide.

Last month, the popular African-American talk show host was caught up in the #MeToo and #Time’s Up movement when PBS suspended him for sleeping with subordinates working for his media company.

The allegations brought the long-standing late-night show to an end.

But that hasn’t stopped Smiley.


He will convene a town hall meeting at “The Faith Community of Saint Sabina,” on Thursday, to try to flushout just what constitutes unacceptable workplace behavior between women and men.

The five-city tour kicks off Monday night in Los Angeles, and travels to New Orleans, D.C., Chicago and Indianapolis.

Participants in Chicago include Willona Olison, an assistant professor at Northwestern University specializing in organizational communication, and Erika Orr, a candidate for circuit court judge, according to organizers.

The event is not without controversy, and apparently panelists have “been dropping like flies,” a planner said.

The Rev. Michael Pfleger suspects he might get some criticism for hosting Smiley, but he is hoping the event leads to a deeper national conversation.

“No woman should be intimidated, but when are we going to have the courage to deal with the real issues?” he asked, pointing out that women are still being portrayed as sex objects in commercials.

“If we don’t get down to the roots of it — to know that we ought not to be using sex to sell products — we ought to make sure that young girls are being respected and deal with the whole nine yards,” he said.

“We are staying on the surface. If we don’t look at some of the roots and causes, the movement will run its course and nothing will change,” he said.

Smiley hasn’t been accused of criminal behavior and has denied any wrongdoing.

But he has admitted to having a consensual sexual relationship with a colleague on the “Tavis Smiley” show, and that mismatched power dynamic is at the heart of this female empowerment movement.

“I am proud to stand in solidarity . . . with my fellow sisters in this room who make up the music industry. . . . We come in peace, but we mean business,” said Janelle Monae in her speech at the Grammy’s Sunday night.

Given the ferocity of the #MeToo movement, Smiley has gotten off light.

Or is it that African-American women are less supportive of this movement than white women.

After all, after PBS dropped Smiley, he landed a new deal with the “Word Network,” which touts itself as the “largest African-American religious network in the world.”

“We are thrilled to have Tavis share his insightful programming with our vast audience,” the network’s chief executive said in a statement, the Washington Post reported.

And you know who is filling up the black church — black women.

While prominent women like Oprah Winfrey are now speaking out loudly about sexual harassment, where were these voices when multiple women accused Bill Cosby, “America’s #1 Dad,” of drugging and sexually assaulting them?

Cosby, who is about to be retried on charges that he drugged and molested a woman at his home in 2004, is still able to draw a friendly crowd.

He recently performed in public in his hometown, Philadelphia, and apparently not a protester was in sight.

It is also puzzling that Russell Simmons, who is facing a lawsuit for allegedly raping a documentary filmmaker, isn’t somewhere hiding his face.

An astonishing 15 women have accused the hip-hop mogul of sexual harassment, including rape and attempted rape.

Simmons stepped down from the head of his lucrative businesses and his charity amid allegations that he sexually assaulted a Hollywood screenwriter.

Co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, Simmons’ name was scrubbed from his signature project, HBO’s “All Def Comedy.”

Although he has called the sexual assault charges “hurtful,” and claimed all his “relations have been consensual,” Simmons’ earning power has been impacted.

“The Conversation,” definitely needs to take place.

I’m just not convinced that the accused should be leading the conversation.

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