Smiley will have to pay the network at least $1.7 million, The Washington Post reported.
“We are pleased with the jury’s decision,” a PBS spokesperson said. “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 we continue to uphold the values and standards of our organization.”
PBS suspended distribution of Smiley’s show in 2017, after he had hosted the late-night talk program for nearly 14 years. The network said in 2018 it had “uncovered multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS.”
Smiley denied the allegations and accused the network of racial bias. He later filed a breach of contract suit against PBS, but the network countersued and sought $1.9 million in remaining production budget money, citing a morals clause requiring that the funds be returned.
In January, before the trial started, a report by an external investigator was unsealed that claimed that Smiley spent decades engaged in sexual relationships with subordinates and guests on his show, and committed acts of verbal abuse, inappropriate touching, and made unwanted sexual comments. Smiley had sought to have the PBS lawsuit dismissed, contending that the allegations pre-dated his most recent contract and that the lawsuit should be tossed, but a judge declined.
Tina Tchen, president and CEO of Time’s Up Foundation, said in a statement, “We owe a debt of gratitude to the six women who bravely spoke out about their experiences of sexual harassment at the hands of Tavis Smiley. Because of their voices and determination, and PBS’s fight against harassment, today another jury believed the women and reinforced their right to a safe and dignified workplace in a history-making verdict.
“We hope that all workers will take some comfort in the message this verdict sends on the heels of the verdict in Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial: we are moving ever closer toward a world in which survivors will be believed, and perpetrators can be held accountable.”
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