According to a report in Variety, the veteran talk show host has been suspended by PBS on suspicion of sexual harassment. Excerpt:
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.
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 is fighting back. His statement:
On the eve of the 15th season and 3,000th episode of my nightly talk show, I was as shocked as anyone else by PBS’ announcement today. Variety knew before I did.
I have the utmost respect for women and celebrate the courage of those who have come forth to tell their truth. To be clear, I have never groped, coerced, or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career, covering 6 networks over 30 years.
Never. Ever. Never.
PBS launched a so-called investigation of me without ever informing me. I learned of the investigation when former staffers started contacting me to share the uncomfortable experience of receiving a phone call from a stranger asking whether, I had ever done anything to make them uncomfortable, and if they could provide other names of persons to call. After 14 seasons, that’s how I learned of this inquiry, from the streets.
Only after being threatened with a lawsuit, did PBS investigators reluctantly agree to interview me for three hours.
If having a consensual relationship with a colleague years ago is the stuff that leads to this kind of public humiliation and personal destruction, heaven help us. The PBS investigators refused to review any of my personal documentation, refused to provide me the names of any accusers, refused to speak to my current staff, and refused to provide me any semblance of due process to defend myself against allegations from unknown sources. Their mind was made up. Almost immediately following the meeting, this story broke in Variety as an “exclusive.” Indeed, I learned more about these allegations reading the Variety story than the PBS investigator shared with me, the accused, in our 3 hour face to face meeting.
My attorneys were sent a formal letter invoking a contractual provision to not distribute my programming, and that was it.
Put simply, PBS overreacted and conducted a biased and sloppy investigation, which led to a rush to judgment, and trampling on a reputation that I have spent an entire lifetime trying to establish.
This has gone too far. And, I, for one, intend to fight back.
It’s time for a real conversation in America, so men and women know how to engage in the workplace. I look forward to actively participating in that conversation.
It’s impossible to know at this point who is telling the truth here, but if Smiley’s account is true, then he is right to resist, and to resist publicly. If it’s true that he’s not even being allowed to know who’s accusing him, and it’s true that he had to learn of this investigation through the grapevine, that’s outrageous.