(NEW YORK) — Tavis Smiley defended himself again against sexual harassment allegations on Monday’s Good Morning America, saying, “PBS made a huge mistake here.”
PBS suspended the distribution of The Tavis Smiley Show earlier this month after an investigation, noting “multiple, credible allegations” of sexual harassment against the talk show host.
In his first live interview since PBS’ decision, Smiley reiterated to GMA, “I’ve never groped, I’ve never coerced” women on his staff into sexual relations “in 30 years over six different networks.”
He added, “I celebrate and applaud these women who had the courage to come out,” but says he’s concerned that because of the recent climate, “people end up being guilty simply by accusations.”
Smiley admitted he had relationships with women while working on his show, adding he can prove they were consensual “with letters, cards, gifts and, certainly, photographs.”
“I certainly understand people can have a viewpoint any consensual relationship in the workplace is wrong … but there are also other points of view on this,” he said. “While we don’t encourage [them] …we don’t forbid them.”
Smiley added that during those relationships, he never instructed the “team” who runs his company on any employment matters. “I never gave any favoritism upward or downward,” he said.
Smiley refuted claims that he has created a hostile work environment, saying, “The environments are intense at times,” but adding, “I‘m not an angry black man and this notion of a hostile environment just doesn’t fit.”
After the investigation, Smiley said, he was unsure whether he would return to PBS, which distributes his talk show.
“PBS made a huge mistake here. They need to fix this. They need to correct it,” he said. “I’m going to do anything to protect my reputation.”
Smiley has denied the allegations from the start. After PBS announced its decision to stop airing his show, he declared, in part, “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.”
In a separate statement, PBS defended their investigation. “Following receipt of a complaint, PBS hired an independent law firm to conduct an investigation and we stand by its integrity,” a PBS spokesperson told ABC News in a statement. “The totality of the investigation, which included a three-hour interview of Mr. Smiley, revealed multiple sexual relationships with subordinates over many years, and other acts that together constitute a pattern of conduct inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS.”
The Tavis Smiley Show has aired on PBS for 14 seasons.
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