Tavis Smiley Suspended by PBS

Tavis Smiley is angry at PBS, which he says performed a sloppy investigation of the harassment allegations against him, and then suspended him.

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,” Mr. Smiley wrote early Thursday.

Variety has more details, including this statement posted by Smiley on his FB page:

In a statement posted Thursday evening on Facebook, Smiley said, “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.”

The allegations: [More...]

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.

The New York Times also quotes Smiley as responding:

“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,” he said.

< USA Today Editorial: Trump Not Fit to Clean Toilets | FCC Repeals Net Neutrality Rules >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    this was your first mistake: (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by cpinva on Thu Dec 14, 2017 at 01:40:01 PM EST
    "If having a consensual relationship with a colleague......"

    one thing I learned, early on in my career, is to not get romantically involved with your colleagues. it rarely ends well.

    Also (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by CST on Thu Dec 14, 2017 at 01:45:01 PM EST
    Was it a colleague or a subordinate?  IMO, there's a huge difference.

    Big difference (none / 0) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Dec 14, 2017 at 05:52:28 PM EST
    Conclusive presumptions are foolish (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Michael Masinter on Thu Dec 14, 2017 at 06:29:43 PM EST
    Sexual harassment law does not and should not forbid welcome (as distinct from merely consensual) romantic or sexual relationships between supervisors and subordinates. Adults, including women, have agency even in the workplace. Supervisors who coerce consent by any means should be fired, but not all workplace romance or sex is the product of coercion.  

    There are enough marriages and long term relationships that have begun between supervisors and subordinates to suggest that case by case judgment assessing whether the relationship is mutually welcome ought to be the standard.

    Finally, employers who enact blanket bans are not seeking to protect subordinate employees.  Rather, because sexual harassment law imposes liability only on the employer, blanket bans are a blunderbuss way to try to insulate employers from liability under the Farragher/Ellereth standard.  

    Let's not infantilize women or engage in a sex panic.


    Here's where you're going sideways: (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by Anne on Fri Dec 15, 2017 at 09:23:27 AM EST
    If the man says it was consensual because the woman in question went along with it, but the woman went along with it because she believed her job was on the line if she didn't, that's not consensual.

    From Variety:

    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.


    In a February piece in the Observer, Jacques Hyzagi, a former producer on Smiley's television show, wrote that Smiley's "misogyny is always creeping around, barely camouflaged by Midwestern good manners." Hyzagi described Smiley picking up a woman at the Orlando airport and bringing her along on a reporting trip as a "fk buddy"; alleged that Smiley had a romantic relationship with another producer; and quoted Smiley denigrating PBS executives.

    This is not to say that men and women in the workplace can't and don't develop relationships and mutually agree to take those relationships to an intimate level, but what the women involved in the Smiley case are alleging is that these were not those kinds of relationships.

    I'm all for not infantilizing women - seeing as how I am a woman - so perhaps men could stop imposing their self-serving definition of "consensual" on us...


    And here, here is the less common (none / 0) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Dec 15, 2017 at 09:33:21 AM EST
    Female predator, abusing her power all the same. And she's slapped down for it. DAMN RIGHT!

    Try rereading my post (none / 0) (#13)
    by Michael Masinter on Fri Dec 15, 2017 at 10:39:28 AM EST
    Anne's computer must be scrambling text or mixing posts because she is not responding to what I actually wrote.  

    First, I repeatedly made clear that "consensual" and "consent" are not the relevant standard in sexual harassment law.  Since its beginning, sexual harassment law rightly has recognized that consensual relationships, especially between a supervisor and a subordinate, can be the product of coercion.  That's why both sexual harassment law and my post focus instead on whether the relationship was "welcome."  If sexual conduct is welcomed, it is not harassment, and it can be welcome  even when there is a power differential between the parties.

    Second, nothing I wrote defended Tavis Smiley or sought to exonerate him from allegations of misconduct.  I only know what I have read, but as I said, for purposes of sexual harassment law, what matters is whether conduct is welcome or unwelcome, not whether the complaining victim consented to it.  I responded only to a post defending a blanket ban on all romantic or sexual relationships between supervisors and subordinates, suggesting instead that employers recognize that when those relationships are welcomed by both parties (and not merely consensual), they are entirely lawful; that's important because some of them are inevitable in a world in which both men and women work side by side, no longer marry young, and spend most of their waking hours in the workplace.  So a sensible employer should publish and rigorously enforce a policy against sexual harassment, one that focuses on whether conduct is welcome or unwelcome without regard to consent.

    Third, I nowhere sought to define consent, much less impose a definition on anyone.  Again, and I hope for the last time, consent is not a defense to a claim of sexual harassment; at most it is a defense to the crime of rape, and it isn't always a defense then either.

    As an aside, I have represented women as plaintiffs in sexual harassment suits since long before the 1991 amendments to Title VII made it possible to sue for damages.  I have never defended harassers or those who employ them.  My sexual harassment plaintiffs, who have all been women, already understood the difference between welcome and unwelcome conduct, the boundary that defines sexual harassment law, and on that basis I have won cases on their behalf and successfully defended those victories on appeal to the 11th Circuit against employers ranging from a Chevrolet dealership to Walmart to Georgia-Pacific.  

    So, after rereading what I wrote before and again, what do we really disagree over?  



    Pffft (none / 0) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Dec 15, 2017 at 07:20:59 AM EST
    Keep on mansplainin away what women have put up with for far too long.

    Relationships between bosses and subordinates are toxic to work environments and morale. They even have a term for it, it's called institutional incest.

    There are ways when two people at work find themselves attracted to each other and want to pursue that in good faith, somebody can be moved.

    Just in case you didn't notice though, women are done with being hit on and harassed by their bosses. That crap seldom goes down where "the boss" is genuinely concerned with the overall health and well being of the subordinate and all the other employees affected by their behavior.

    It's very hard to know when a subordinate is actually attracted to a boss, bosses have the power and subordinates fear retaliation.

    Only stupid bosses believe their subordinates are a viable dating pool.


    I worked for one company that used their (none / 0) (#12)
    by Jack E Lope on Fri Dec 15, 2017 at 10:30:03 AM EST
    ...anti-nepotism rules against co-workers who worked in the same operating unit and started seeing each other romantically.  One would get transferred or fired - the one with the highest-ranking (and -paying) position, in most cases.  Savvy employees would transfer or quit before revealing a relationship, so they had control of the result.  (Sometimes, someone would quit shortly before the wedding invitations were mailed.)

    However, I think that company used the anti-nepotism rules mainly to help assure that each employee was more loyal to the company than to any coworker.  It was not a shining star of equal treatment.


    Hmmmmm (none / 0) (#16)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Dec 15, 2017 at 11:11:37 AM EST
    Obviously most of my exposure to these situations has been within military culture. And there are plenty of traps people can fall into and plenty of predators avoiding accountability.

    But my most recent scarring experience, in 2000 my spouse came back from Korea and was assigned to the 3rd ACR. 6 Mos before deploying to Iraq, another wife approaches me very troubled and says the commander of the unit sexually harasses her and sends her nasty emails. My spouse was only midway through his career and the military wasn't exactly on board ending sexual harassment and this Captain was also the Colonel's golden boy.

    My advice until I could find out more information on what to do was to tell her to avoid social situations with him. But she was also best friends with the Captain's wife so she would go places with them and every opportunity he would whisper nasty things to her. She also feared for her husband's career.

    My spouse was away at a training before the last formal ball before deploying to Iraq. The harassed wife wanted me to go to this ball alone to protect her from the Captain. Josh was a disabled baby and the family soldier wasn't there. I told her I couldn't do that. She then threatened to use her influence with the Captain to damage my husband's career if I didn't go to the ball to protect her from same Captain?

    Threatening me is always the wrong thing to do. When my husband returned I told him everything but he was on his way out the door to war. Jesus what a mess. And no good remedies available at that point.

    The soldiers deployed, then I let the Captains wife know what was going on. She was a smart lady and she had friends in IT. I knew she'd find the emails. She did. And she packed her bags, told the commanders wives what was going on, and left.

    In Iraq that same Captain's unit was falling apart. My husband was moved to a much more functional unit. He was relieved,  and he thought his talent was noticed and he was being rewarded until his old Commander started sneering at him and telling everyone my spouse was responsible for his divorce. Uhhh No buddy, I am responsible for your divorce.

    That Captain's unit remained in chaos though. The more functional unit that my spouse was moved to because of his wife's big mouth and inability to remain silent was much saner and won a couple of awards for that sanity.

    I have precious little tolerance for institutional incest. Look what it put everyone through along with a damn war. No Thank You!!!


    Also, I really love this (none / 0) (#19)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Dec 15, 2017 at 11:42:56 AM EST
    I don't exactly know when the Captain got out. We did hear through the grapevine he became a drone pilot contractor making $250,000 for a six month deployment to Afghanistan. Only the good die young I guess.

    But my daughter called last month and said a guy was hitting on her at church. His new wife was there, just not in their immediate vicinity. She said he asked her her name, she retains her father's last name. He continued to flirt with her while asking her questions about her family. She said she had the skeevies and she felt like he knew her. She asked me to send her a photo of "that one guy who was dad's commander". We all know who that is when it's said in a certain voice. I found an old photo of him and sent it to her. It's him. He's back at Ft Rucker and thinking about my family. Freakin predator.


    fwiw, I married my boss. (none / 0) (#14)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Dec 15, 2017 at 10:42:35 AM EST
    I guess my question for things like this (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by CST on Fri Dec 15, 2017 at 11:06:12 AM EST
    Is did you both keep the job though?

    I agree that dating your boss/subordinate is not illegal, but that's not really what we're talking about here.

    For myself, as a female in a male dominated environment like engineering I have always been very aware of that and never dated another engineer, whether they were a co-worker or otherwise.  I'm too paranoid about the consequences or rumors - it's just not worth it.

    That said, I did date my boss one summer in college that I was a valet.  Looking back - I do think that was problematic, because frankly, it wasn't fair to the other valets that I got all the good shifts (that I never asked for) because my boyfriend wanted us to have the same schedule and free time together.  And even though I didn't consider it a career, maybe it was for some of the people I worked with and they needed those shifts.  Mind you - this was someone I went to highschool with, and in no way was it an attempt to advance my career, and I never felt threatened with retaliation or anything like that.  But if I was one of the other co-workers, I would've been pissed, and frankly, one of us should have gotten another job or at least switched locations.

    Do I think Travis Smiley is a pervert or bad person or broke the law for dating his subordinate? No, absolutely not.  But probably they shouldn't work together anymore, and the fact that he was the one to lose his job as the boss, makes sense to me from an HR perspective.


    If I were Monica Lewinsky (none / 0) (#17)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Dec 15, 2017 at 11:24:45 AM EST
    At that age?

    I would have had sexual relations with Bill Clinton and not had a clue how much danger I was placing myself in, my family and friends, or him, or his spouse, or his child, or his staff, or the country.

    There's a learning curve for some I guess. And as an old person I now see where the long in tooth owe the next generation to not sexually exploit them, especially from positions of power.


    Good question. We dated for several years (none / 0) (#20)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Dec 15, 2017 at 12:13:49 PM EST
    while at that company, though we both left long before we ultimately got married.

    So (none / 0) (#18)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Dec 15, 2017 at 11:31:38 AM EST
    True... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Thu Dec 14, 2017 at 02:24:17 PM EST
    but Cupid does what Cupid does sometimes.

    Workplace romance can occur without inappropriateness...I mean they are the people we spend most of our waking hours around.


    They can (none / 0) (#9)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Dec 15, 2017 at 07:28:32 AM EST
    And that almost always happens when the person with the power is not using that influence in any way.

    But having a romantic relationship with one subordinate usually causes chaos and morale issues for the other subordinates.


    Curious word crafting. (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by KeysDan on Thu Dec 14, 2017 at 03:09:19 PM EST
    "....I have never groped, coerced, or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career, covering 6 networks over 30 years."

    Assuming the or is in the disjunctive, he holds that he never exposed himself inappropriately to workplace colleagues.  Does this denial suggest the need for discernment with occasions of appropriate exposure to workplace colleagues? And, what would make for such appropriateness?

    vague (none / 0) (#4)
    by thomas rogan on Thu Dec 14, 2017 at 03:09:03 PM EST
    "Several expressed concerns about retaliation".  Was there actual retaliation or simply perceived potential retaliation?
    The revolution eats its young.