Jury to Former PBS Host: You Owe at Least $1.5M

Tavis Smiley loses court case over sexual-misconduct claims
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2020 5:30 PM CST
The Verdict Is in on Smiley
In this May 29, 2014 file photo, author and talk show host Tavis Smiley speaks at Book Expo America in New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Tavis Smiley suffered a crushing legal blow Wednesday when jurors decided he has to pay at least $1.5 million to PBS over relationships with six female employees, the Washington Post reports. The Washington, DC, jury needed about 1 1/2 days to determine that the former talk-show host had violated the network's morals clause. "This wasn't just 'he said, she said,'" said a male juror outside the courtroom. "This was 'he said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said.'" Jurors also said his "lack of contrition" and accusations that the women were lying played into the verdict. The six women gave video depositions that they either felt coerced into sex with Smiley or that his jokes or comments made them feel ill-at-ease in the office.

Two jurors said the biggest challenge was hearing women testify about sexual acts Smiley requested. "Hearing those stories was the hardest part," said one. The former host and his mother left the courthouse with no comment, but he has denied the accusations: "I have the utmost respect for women and celebrate the courage of those who have come forth to tell their truth," he wrote on Facebook when PBS dismissed him in 2017, per USA Today. "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." But PBS forbids romantic relationships at the office. One of Smiley's attorneys said he plans to appeal. (More Tavis Smiley stories.)

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