Tavis Smiley, the longtime host of the eponymous PBS daily talk show, is yet another high-profile male figure facing the so-called reckoning experienced by men in power accused of sexual misconduct. The network suspended Smiley’s show amid allegations of sexual misconduct among low-level staffers living in fear of losing their jobs.
Variety exclusively reports:
Sources close to the production told Variety that PBS hired attorney Sarah Taylor Wirtz of the firm MSK to oversee an investigation into Smiley’s behavior after receiving allegations of misconduct by Smiley, who hosts and produces the talk show. Wirtz declined Variety‘s request for comment. According to sources, MSK took reports from 10 witnesses, a mix of men and women of different races and employment levels in Smiley’s organization, most of them former staffers.
Representatives for Smiley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The investigation found credible allegations that Smiley had engaged in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates, sources said. Some witnesses interviewed expressed concern that their employment status was linked to the status of a sexual relationship with Smiley. In general, witnesses described Smiley as creating a verbally abusive and threatening environment that went beyond what could be expected in a typical high-pressure work environment. Several expressed concerns about retaliation.
Smiley’s program has been on air since 2004 and has been underwritten by large sponsors such as Wal-Mart.