By Ryan Velez
We covered a short time ago how Tavis Smiley, in response to losing his PBS position over s*xual misconduct allegations, took one of the hardest stances against the accusations we’ve seen. Not only did he deny any misconduct, but said that his situation was the product of changing attitudes towards workplace romances, and even launched a speaking tour to talk about the subject of s*xual harassment in the workplace. Blue Telusma of The Grio recently penned an opinion piece seeing the move as tone-deaf, at best.
“The man who was suspended last December after an investigation was launched into “credible” allegations of s*xual misconduct in the workplace has – only one month later – deemed himself qualified to moderate a town hall about the very thing that got him a pink slip.
Now maybe I’m missing something, but what part of the game is this?
Is Tavis Smiley taking deflection classes from Donald Trump? And who is his agent? I want to hear HOW this hot mess of an idea was even pitched let alone received a green-light to move forward,” she questions.
“The jarring part of all this is that I used to be #TeamSmiley. He always seemed like a lovely, gracious man. So when these reports first came out I was shocked, and totally choosing to reserve judgment.
But Smiley’s attitude since the news broke is actually what made me give him the side-eye — way more than the allegations he is so vehemently denouncing.
First he went on the offensive, posting really strong rebuttals on social media like someone’s pissed off creepy uncle. He loudly asserted his innocence, but without the usual facts and intellectual nuance that he’s known for.
He pretty much ignored the fact that PBS hired an outside law firm to conduct an objective investigation.
What was also glaring from these posts – and subsequent TV interviews he did – is that he kept saying, “I’ve never groped or exposed myself to anyone” as if those two specific behaviors are the only ways to s*xually harass someone and put them in fear of losing their livelihood.”
A particular thing Telusma finds disconcerting is Smiley’s move to the Word Network, a news story we previously covered. The Word Network brands itself as the “largest African-American religious network in the world.”
“Church folks and their beautiful forgiving hearts have a long history of sheltering problematic persons from the pesky legal proceedings of the secular world.
And while Smiley’s new partnership with the religious network on its own doesn’t scream guilty – combined with his fierce (but carefully worded) pleas of innocence, it has become increasingly clear that Tavis has blurred the lines of what is deemed appropriate behavior in the workplace.”