Tavis Smiley says PBS firing him wasn't just about sexual harassment allegations ... he now claims it was racial, and it's costing him millions upon millions of dollars.
Smiley filed a lawsuit against his former network -- which aired his talk show for 14 years -- claiming the sexual harassment allegations against him were "trumped up." Immediately after Smiley was suspended in mid December, he admitted to having relationships with coworkers ... but insisted they were all consensual. He was fired later that month.
In his lawsuit, first reported by the Washington Post, Smiley says there was racial tension at PBS. He claims network honchos "hassled Mr. Smiley when he had African American guests who espoused controversial positions, and effectively tried to stop any such guests from appearing."
Smiley also says in the docs ... his personal production company has been hemorrhaging "multiple millions of dollars" since he got fired, and he's been forced to lay off roughly 20 employees.
PBS calls Smiley's lawsuit a "meritless" attempt to distract the public from his "pattern of sexual misconduct." Jennifer Rankin Byrne, Communications VP for PBS, also reiterated an independent law firm's investigation found Smiley had "multiple sexual encounters with subordinates over many years."
Byrne says that's why Smiley was ultimately fired and it's "ridiculous and false" for him to claim it was about anything else.