Talk show host Tavis Smiley broke Public Broadcasting Service’s morals clause and now must pay $1.5 million to the network, a Washington D.C., jury found.
The Associated Press reported, “At issue was the network’s ‘morals’ clause, which bars romantic relationships in the office and also disallows employees from acting in a way that would impact the employee or network in a negative way.”
Smiley plans to appeal, according to the Associated Press.
“At trial, PBS presented more than half a dozen women who spoke how they were pressured into relationships or had become the victim of unwanted advances,” the Hollywood Reporter reported. “Smiley insisted the relationships were consensual, and the jury had to consider whether the morals clauses covered the conduct alleged.”
Smiley was suspended and then fired in 2017 after sexual misconduct allegations against him, which he denied. Smiley sued PBS in February 2018 over his firing, and the next month, PBS countersued him for $1.9 million, alleging he broke the morals clause, which reads, in part: “Producer shall not commit any act or do anything which might tend to bring Producer into public disrepute, contempt, scandal, or ridicule, or which might tend to reflect unfavorably on PBS.”
Earlier this year, PBS’s external investigation into Smiley’s behavior was unsealed.
iMediaEthics has written to Smiley’s reps and PBS.