Last week, life went oops upside Tavis Smiley’s head after Variety reported that PBS instructed him and his show to pack its bags and get the hell on following an investigation into allegations of misconduct leveled at the talk show host.
Per a statement from the network: “The inquiry uncovered multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS, and the totality of this information led to today’s decision.”
Yet, Smiley is not taking this lying down. No, he’s a survivor, he’s not gon’ give up. He’s not gon’ stop, he’s gon’ work harder. Sadly, based on the media rounds he’s been making this week, he’s not working smarter. Indeed, when I watched Smiley’s attempt at damage control during an interview on Good Morning America, my reaction was immediate: Dude, do you hear you?
Smiley spent six minutes trying to explain why he’s not a sexual harasser, just the sequel to Boomerang where office romances were much ado about nothing because that’s life or something.
PBS has since responded.
In an email to CNN’s Brian Stelter, a spokesperson wrote, “First, today on ‘Good Morning America,’ Mr. Smiley acknowledged he has had multiple sexual encounters with his employees… This contradicts his Facebook post from last week, where he cited only one previous relationship with an employee.” The spokesperson also went on to make clear that they hired an outside law firm to handle an investigation into his accused behavior “following receipt of a complaint.”
They went on to add, “The totality of the investigation, which included Mr. Smiley, revealed a pattern of multiple relationships with subordinates over many years, and other conduct inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS.”
It sounds like Tavis Smiley don’t want no problems ’cause PBS’ legal team will solve them.
Still, Smiley kept talking as he did a subsequent interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, whose show is basically playing the roles of contrarian, racist, and conspiracy theorist. Now why would Smiley go on that show on that network of all places? One imagines it’s because while Carlson and Smiley’s racial politics may differ, he may find a friend in Carlson considering despite the dismissals of the late Roger Ailes and the may as well be dead (at least professionally) Bill O’Reilly, patriarchy and sexism continue to do the same old two step up and down the Fox News network.
Smiley knew exactly what notes to hit as he warned if PBS does not “fix this” i.e. their choice to suspend distribution of his program, he will proceed to sue them. And let him tell it, “millions of taxpayer dollars are going to be spent by PBS defending itself.” Of course, conservative viewers would be irate by the notion of a government-funded station potentially have to “waste” money related to court costs. Smiley knew exactly what he was doing by going on this show on Monday night.
It appears if Smiley cannot save his job at PBS, at the very least, he can salvage his reputation.
Here’s the problem with Smiley’s tragic attempts at spinning his self-created controversy. Sure, sometimes co-workers date. It happens. We do indeed collectively work long hours which may curb our social lives.
However, Smiley isn’t just a worker at a company; he’s the owner of his production company. That means he’s in the position of ultimate power and anyone he dated at his place of employment is a subordinate — meaning the power dynamic is clearly in his favor and said power might prompt him to abuse it. After all, as Smiley spent six minutes acting as if he was a fake ass Marcus Graham and PBS was just overreacting, he ended the interview with an anecdote about making an inappropriate comment to a woman he was interviewing for a job at his company. One imagines that gave PBS the biggest smile because Smiley more or less told on himself.
I won’t ignore that some people have fallen for Smiley’s office love mythology, but consider this: as much as some want to protect a Black man they feel has been wronged, consider the reality that at the company he owns, Smiley has been accused of hurting Black women. Are Black women subjected to sexual misconduct not worthy of our protection and support?
Also consider that Smiley himself provided evidence of his inappropriate behavior at work on national television. Meanwhile, recall that in 2009, Smiley published R. Kelly’s memoir. “We are thrilled to be the conduit through which R. Kelly will tell his own story,” Smiley said in the press release for the project. “He has earned the right to tell his story his own way.”
So, a man who once published a memoir by another man accused of pedophilia, domestic violence by multiple women over decades who himself has been recently accused of misconduct by one of his employees sparked an investigation that resulted in his dismissal. In response to his dismissal, he goes on national television and admits that he has said things that were inappropriate in a work setting. Later that same day, he goes and talks to a racist.
Yeah, this is not the person we should be rallying behind. This is a man who puts self first and seemingly will do whatever it takes to keep his platform and profit from it. Some may call it such a man a victim, but to that I say, buy a damn clue when it’s free for the taking.
Like all these other men that have been shown the door for mistreating women, I only have two words left for Tavis Smiley: good riddance.