March 5 (UPI) — A jury on Wednesday decided that former public television host Tavis Smiley violated his contract after accounts that he sexually harassed six women who worked for him.
The jury in Washington, D.C., determined that Smiley, 55, had acted counter to the morality clause in his contract with PBS, which prohibited on-air talent from participating in public behavior that would negatively affect the employee or the network.
“We are pleased with the jury’s decision,” the network said in a statement Wednesday. “PBS expects our producing partners to provide a workplace where people feel safe and are treated with dignity and respect. It was important for us to ensure that the courageous women who came forward were able to share their stories and that we continue to uphold the values and standards of our organization.”
During the three-week trial, six women testified that Smiley pressured them for sex or told lewd jokes.
Smiley said that he had intimate relationships with two of the women but denied using his position as their boss to threaten them and said any jokes he told were innocent and not intended to offend.
Smiley’s self-titled program, which had appeared on PBS from 2004, was suspended in 2017 as the network investigated the allegations and he was ultimately terminated.
He adamantly denied the allegations and sued PBS for $1 million, stating the network fired him without proof of the allegations. PBS then countersued for $1.7 million, stating Smiley owed them wages for a season of the show that never aired.