Tavis Smiley to pay PBS for violating morals clause, jury finds

The former television talk show host was dismissed by PBS following “troubling allegations” in December 2017 after the network said it had received multiple, credible allegations of misconduct by Smiley on his late-night interview show.

SHARE Tavis Smiley to pay PBS for violating morals clause, jury finds
Tavis Smiley listens to speakers during a 2012 event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Tavis Smiley listens to speakers during a 2012 event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

AFP via Getty Images

A Washington, D.C. jury decided Wednesday that Tavis Smiley, who was fired amid allegations of workplace sexual misconduct, must pay about $1.5 million to his former employer, PBS.

The former television talk show host was dismissed by PBS following “troubling allegations” in December 2017 after the network said it had received multiple, credible allegations of misconduct by Smiley on his late-night interview show. 

At issue was the network’s “morals” clause, which bars romantic relationships in the office and also disallows employees from acting in a way that would impact the employee or network in a negative way.

Jurors heard testimony from six female employees who described misconduct claims. Smiley denied the allegations. The jury deliberated for about a day before reaching a verdict in the civil case.

PBS said in a statement to The Associated Press that the network was pleased with the jury’s decision.

“PBS expects our producing partners to provide a workplace where people feel safe and are treated with dignity and respect,” the network said. “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.”

Smiley first sued PBS in D.C. Superior Court, contending that racial bias contributed to his dismissal and he was wrongly terminated without proof. The network counter-sued, arguing in part that Smiley owed the network for a season that didn’t air.

Smiley added that PBS “overreacted and conducted a biased and sloppy investigation, which led to a rush to judgment... trampling on a reputation that I have spent an entire lifetime trying to establish. This has gone too far. And, I, for one, intend to fight back.”

An external investigator hired by PBS found allegations that dated back years and ranged from lewd jokes to unwanted sexual advances, a report revealed in January, which was unsealed in relation to the lawsuit surrounding his dismissal.

Smiley was on air with PBS for more than a decade, broadcast to more than 200 stations nationwide. Smiley, who is black, was the only minority to have served as the solo host in the history of the network, according to his lawsuit.

He was fired amid the wave of #MeToo reports of sexual misconduct in the workplace by powerful figures in movies, media and politics that began with allegations against Harvey Weinstein and also led to the departure of Smiley’s fellow PBS talk-show host Charlie Rose.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Read more at usatoday.com

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