Tavis Smiley is taking PBS to court for showing him the door.
The talk show host slapped the Public Broadcasting Service with a lawsuit Tuesday in Washington, D.C. for pulling the plug on his show last year over sexual harassment allegations.
In court papers obtained by The Wrap, Tavis - who is African American - suggested race played a role in his firing.
“PBS harassed Mr. Smiley about inviting controversial African American figures on to his show. However, when Mr. Smiley brought equally controversial (if not more so) white figures, PBS remained silent,” the lawsuit stated. “This was not an isolated incident but happened multiple times during the fourteen years PBS and [TS Media] were in business together.”
PBS announced in December that it had decided to “indefinitely suspend” the television host's nightly talk show, Tavis Smiley, after he was accused of sexual harassment by several current and former co-workers at his production company, TS Media.
The network called the accusations "troubling" at the time and said it had hired an outside law firm to conduct an investigation before ultimately cutting ties with Tavis.
In his court filing Tuesday, the former Dancing With the Stars contestant alleged that the investigation was “poorly executed and incomplete.”
“Based on this incomplete, trumped-up investigation, and in violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, PBS decided to use a technical provision in its contract with TSM to stop distributing Tavis Smiley – the only nightly television show featuring a person of color as the host,” the lawsuit claimed.
Tonight #JerrodCarmichael and @davidalangrier discuss season 3 of @thecarmichaelshow . What could they possibly be laughing about? There is only one way to find out. Watch our interview in its entirety when Tavis Smiley airs tonight on @pbs . Check your local TV listing for times using the link in the bio.
The court papers go on claim PBS was looking for a reason to get rid of Tavis.
“With the relationship already having deteriorated, this allegation gave PBS executives a pretext to finally rid themselves of Mr. Smiley who was not the ‘team player’ type of African American personality PBS preferred to have hosting a nightly national news and public affairs program,” the suit states.
The lawsuit also alleges that PBS failed to give Tavis time to respond to the accusations before yanking his show.
“In fact, PBS had no intention of providing Mr. Smiley with an opportunity to defend himself because it had already decided that this allegation provided a perfect opportunity to rid itself of its tense relationship with TSM and Mr. Smiley,” the court papers said.
A PBS spokesperson called the lawsuit “meritless” in a statement to the Washington Post.
The investigation “revealed that he had multiple sexual encounters with subordinates over many years and yielded credible allegations of additional misconduct inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS,” Jennifer Rankin Byrne, PBS’s vice president for corporate communications said in the statement.
The network also called Tavis' claim that the show was yanked over race, "ridiculous."
“The notion that PBS’ decision to suspend distribution of the program was made for any reason aside from Mr. Smiley’s own behavior is ridiculous and false,” the statement continued.
PBS aired Tavis' show from 2004 to 2017.
In a television interview in December, he admitted to having relationships with female co-workers at his company but said he could prove they were consensual.