In Tavis Smiley's first live interview since PBS suspended his late-night talk show over "multiple, credible allegations" of misconduct, the former host appeared on Good Morning America Monday, denying all wrongdoing and arguing the claims are untrue.
Speaking to ABC News correspondent Paula Faris, Smiley admitted to engaging in workplace relationships, claiming they were consensual.
"I certainly understand people who have the viewpoint that any consensual relationship in the workplace is wrong, Smiley said. "But there are also other points of view on this. Let me be clear: I own my company, PBS distributes my content. In our employee handbook, while we do not encourage office relationships, we do not forbid them, either. And we don't forbid them because I don't know where your heart is going to lead you. I don't know who you're going to hang out with, or date, or fall in love with. (There may be) millions of Americans watching right now who met their spouse at work."
Smiley also denied fostering a verbally abusive workplace environment, saying, "I have an intense environment ... Some of the most intense places in our business are in control rooms around this country, that's not for everyone, so it might be that the environment wasn't good for you ... I'm not an angry black man, and this notion of a hostile environment just doesn't fit."
Smiley hosted Tavis Smiley, a half-hour interview program that premiered in 2004 and aired weeknights on PBS stations. He confirmed to Faris that one woman with whom he engaged in a sexual relationship is still employed on his staff, but claimed that he never gave any of his workplace sexual partners preferential treatment, nor retaliated against them in any way.
Responding to allegations that he sent lewd messages or commented inappropriately on women's' bodies, Smiley said he "has no idea" about the basis of the claims.
"I've never sent lewd messages to anyone. In consensual relationships, we use text messages to communicate," he told Faris. "But I've never done that to an employee, ever."
On Wednesday, PBS sent a statement to USA TODAY declaring that the public broadcaster had "indefinitely suspended" distribution of Tavis Smiley, produced by Smiley's independent production company, TS Media.
When asked about his former network, Smiley claimed that PBS "only agreed to talk to me after weeks of investigation they didn't tell me about," after he threatened to sue.
Only under a threat of a lawsuit did they agree to sit down and talk to me," Smiley said. "When they did ... they never told me who the accuser was, what the allegations were, never allowed me to provide any information, they didn't give me due process."
Smiley is the second PBS late-night host to face allegations of sexual misconduct, following the derailing of Charlie Rose's career on PBS and CBS.
Meanwhile, Mills Entertainment announced Friday it is pulling out of backing a nationwide 40-city tour of Death of a King: A Live Theatrical Experience, a show based on Smiley's 2014 book focusing on the last year in the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
Mills' statement said that "in light of the recent allegations" it will be "suspending our relationship with" Smiley. "We take seriously the allegations," the statement added according to the Associated Press and The New York Times.
Contributing: Maria Puente
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