Tuesday, March 10, 2020


Tavis Smiley
Image courtesy of AP

Last Wednesday (3.4.20), a Washington, DC Superior Court jury decided that former PBS and public radio talk show host Tavis Smiley must pay around $1.5 million to PBS for violating the organization’s “morals clause.”

The money had been paid to Smiley for a new season of his late-night PBS program that never aired.

According to a report by the Associated Press [link], PBS suspended Smiley in December 2017 and fired him in January 2018 after the network said it had received multiple, credible allegations of misconduct by Smiley.

Public Radio International (PRI) terminated its agreement with Smiley’s company, TS Media, in December 2017.

Smiley told Current [link] following the actions by PBS and PRI:

“I have never groped, inappropriately exposed myself or coerced any colleague in the workplace — ever — in my 30-year career. PBS launched its so-called investigation of me without ever even telling me about it.”

“It is clear that this has gone too far, and I for one intend to fight back.”

Smiley sued PBS in February 2018, alleging that the network had discriminated against him because of his race; and, that PBS  had used a sham investigation as a pretext to cancel his show.

Tavis Smiley on Good Moring America in December 2017
PBS counter-sued, arguing that Smiley owed the network $1.5 million for programs that never aired. 

PBS said that Smiley’s sexual conduct was a breach of their contract.

Prior to the trial, Smiley had told interviewers that he had “romantic relationships with colleagues, but he added that they were consensual. 

Smiley also said that his company, TS Media, did not forbid office sexual relationships.

"I'll show you what happens when you say 'no.'"

Tavis Smiley, center, his mother, Joyce, and John Rubiner, one of his attorneys,
leave D.C. Superior Court on Monday after closing arguments
in a breach-of-contract lawsuit with PBS.
(Image courtesy: Keith L. Alexander/The Washington Post)
The jury trial began on Monday (3.2.20). According to the Hollywood Reporter [link], the jury first heard testimony from six female accusers, mostly via taped depositions. During the testimony jurors heard descriptions of Smiley's workplace:

• “Woman A” was asked about having a consensual sexual relationship with Smiley, she said, "It depends on how you define 'consensual.'"

“Woman A” told the jury that Smiley vigorously pursued her, sent her salacious notes and left keys for his hotel room under the guise of business. 

"I felt like I was being set up," she said. "Long story short, I was pressured by Mr. Smiley a lot. There were times I gave in ... I kept telling him 'no, no, no, no, no.'"

Denise Pines, once one of Smiley's top employees, testified that “Woman A” was let go because of performance issues. “Woman A” retained a lawyer and later received a $325,000 settlement.

Then it was Smiley’s turn to testify. He admitted having a relationship with “Woman A,” but he denied that he once threatened her by saying "I'll show you what happens when you say 'no.'"

 Smiley denied that he once threatened “Woman A” by saying, "I'll show you what happens when you say 'no.'"

• Smiley testified that it wasn't true that he told another woman he wanted to reach into her shirt. 

• He denied that he told another woman "I need you to suck my dick so I can sleep." 

• Smiley told the jury it was a lie that he put his hand on a different female employee's knees and asked why she was playing hard to get.

• He also denied under oath that he had told an employee, "I bet you never had sex with a black man.”

During his testimony Smiley was asked if he thought the women had all lied. Smiley replied:

"Is that a serious question? I didn't call all of them a liar. [I] had consensual relationships. ... I'm not calling them blanket liars."

The jury began deliberating on Monday, and issued its verdict in favor of PBS on Wednesday morning. PBS will be awarded at least $1.5 million. The D.C. Superior Court judge will have to determine the total amount of damages.


According to Podtrac, all of the Top 15 podcast publishers added “Unique Monthly Audience” in February compared to January.

The New York Times gained the most, up 15% from January.

Conservative talk show publisher Daily Wire was up 13%. Commercial broadcaster Cumulus Media, who owns national program producer Westwood One was up 11% in February compared to January.

NPR, NBC News and This American Life were all up 11%.

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