Former PBS show host Tavis Smiley has filed a lawsuit against the network after his show was pulled from the lineup due to accusations of sexual misconduct back in December.
The lawsuit, which accuses PBS of "racially hostile" behavior, was filed in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, according to The Wrap.
“For example, PBS harassed Mr. Smiley about inviting controversial African-American figures on to his show. However, when Mr. Smiley brought equally controversial (if not more so) white figures, PBS remained silent,” the suit claims. “This was not an isolated incident but happened multiple times during the 14 years PBS and [TS Media] were in business together.”
After Smiley was accused of sexual misconduct at the end of 2017, PBS launched an investigation into the claims, which resulted in the decision to suspend the host.
“Effective today, PBS has indefinitely suspended distribution of ‘Tavis Smiley,’ produced by TS Media, an independent production company,” the broadcaster said in a December statement. “PBS engaged an outside law firm to conduct an investigation immediately after learning of troubling allegations regarding Mr. Smiley. This investigation included interviews with witnesses as well as with Mr. Smiley. 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.”
But the host, whose show first aired in 2004, argued that the network did not do a thorough investigation and used the scandal as an excuse to get rid of him after an already "deteriorating" relationship.
“Based on this incomplete, trumped-up investigation, and in violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, PBS decided to use a technical provision in its contract with TSM to stop distributing Tavis Smiley – the only nightly television show featuring a person of color as the host,” the suit reads. “With the relationship already having deteriorated, this allegation gave PBS executives a pretext to finally rid themselves of Mr. Smiley who was not the ‘team player’ type of African-American personality PBS preferred to have hosting a nightly national news and public affairs program.”
A spokesperson for PBS told The Wrap that Smiley's lawsuit against the network is "meritless" and an attempt "to distract the public from his pattern of sexual misconduct in the workplace.”
Smiley has denied the allegations against him.