Tavis Smiley, whose talk show was dropped by PBS following an investigation that revealed allegations of sexual misconduct in his organization, went on Good Morning America to defend himself Monday morning. Though he has admitted to having what he insists are consensual sexual relationships with his subordinates, Smiley denies any wrongdoing. “There are millions of Americans who are watching this program right now who met their spouses at work,” Smiley said. He went on to insist that his work environments can get “intense” sometimes, but that they never reach the point of hostility. “I’m not an angry black man,” he said.
Since news of the allegations against Smiley broke, a planned 40-city tour of an adaptation of Smiley’s book about Martin Luther King Jr. has also been canceled. In his GMA interview, Smiley doubled down on his insistence that PBS conducted a “sloppy” investigation into him, and said he plans to continue to fight back against the claims against him. “I’m going to do anything to protect my reputation,” he said.
Update: After Tavis Smiley’s GMA appearance, PBS released a statement addressing his denial. “Tavis Smiley needs to get his story straight,” the statement begins, according to Variety. On GMA, Smiley said he’d had consensual sexual relationships — plural — which PBS said doesn’t track with what he has said previously. “This contradicts his Facebook post from last week, where he cited only one previous relationship with an employee. Mr. Smiley even told viewers ‘I don’t know where your heart’s going to lead you.’ PBS is certain that it should not lead to multiple sexual relationships between the owner of a company and subordinates over many years particularly where employment decisions may be linked to sex.”
Moreover, PBS claimed that Smiley’s statement about supporting accusers was just smoke and mirrors, as he’s routinely required current and former employees to sign NDAs. “Mr. Smiley’s own words today coupled with the information discovered during the investigation confirms PBS’ decision to indefinitely suspend the distribution of Tavis Smiley.”