Less than a month after losing a PBS distribution deal due to allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior and sexual misconduct that included relationships with his subordinates, author and talk show host Tavis Smiley is positioning himself for a comeback.
Smiley announced this week that he will embark on a five-city tour as part of a “national conversation” on appropriate relationships between men and women in the workplace.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Smiley announced that his tour, “The Conversation: Women, Men and the Workplace,” will visit five cities January 29 to February 2 for town hall-style conversations about “how to create safe and healthy work environments.” The event will also include discussion from a yet-to be announced group of panelists. Smiley will serve as the event’s moderator.
“We need to have a national dialogue about these issues so women and men know how to engage each other in the workplace. I am eager to join this essential conversation, starting with this tour,” Smiley said in the Facebook post.
In December, PBS announced that following a misconduct investigation into Smiley, the network would suspend distributing the host’s popular long-running nightly talk show. An outside investigation “uncovered multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS, and the totality of this information led to today’s decision,” a PBS spokeswoman said in December.
According to Variety, the investigation “found credible allegations that Smiley had engaged in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates.”
Additionally, Variety reported, “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 has vehemently denied those allegations, vowing to “fight back” against his inclusion in the list of prominent men felled by sexual misconduct allegations in recent months. It appears that he sees this tour as one way to do it.
While Smiley later acknowledged that he had engaged in a relationship with a former employee, he argued that the investigation was “biased and sloppy,” saying that he was only been made aware of it when former members of his staff told him about it.
Smiley sought to distinguish himself from other men that have been swept up in the ongoing sexual harassment reckoning, arguing that his relationships were consensual and should not be lumped in with egregious sexual misconduct.
“I celebrate and applaud these women who have had the courage to come out and to tell their truth, and lead us in a conversation about how to create healthy work spaces,” he said during a December 18 interview on Good Morning America. “At the same time I want to make sure we don’t lose all sense of nuance and proportionality in this conversation because, if we do, people end up being guilty simply by accusation.”
Smiley’s prior statement that he had only one relationship with a subordinate was contradicted during that interview, in which he admitted to having had relationships with multiple employees, a discrepancy that PBS said further justified the suspension.
Smiley hopes to bounce back quickly. In the same statement announcing the tour, Smiley said that he had signed a deal to host a new online show called “The Upside with Tavis Smiley.” According to Smiley, the show “will celebrate the spirit of resilience, the power to overcome that resides in each of us.”