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Karen Bass celebrates the inauguration of Mayor with Tavis Smiley

Karen Bass will break a glass ceiling on Sunday, when she becomes the first female mayor of Los Angeles. And to underscore the historic moment, Kamala Harris, the first vice president, will be sworn in.

But in a surprise pick, Bass will be attending another event this Saturday that will be hosted and organized by Tavis Smiley, the former PBS host who lost his show in a sexual harassment scandal five years ago.

Bass spokesperson Zack Seidl declined to comment on the event.

Since it was cancelled, Smiley has purchased KBLA Talk 1580 in Los Angeles, and hosts a talk show that recently included interviews with Bass and council member Kevin DeLeon. Smiley’s company, SmileyAudioMedia, is organizing a “homecoming” event in the Leimert Park neighborhood that will have the feel of a block party, with live music, food, and vendors.

Through his presence, Bass will raise Smiley’s local profile, as he works to recover from the loss of his national platform. Smiley has described his station as a “must stop” for politicians who want to reach Los Angeles’ African-American audiences, and eventually hopes to build a black-owned radio network. He has described his station as “unapologetically progressive,” and noted that his station has 17 female hosts.

Smiley, 58, declined to be interviewed. His TV show was canceled at the height of the #MeToo movement, after PBS received a complaint about his behavior and commissioned an internal investigation.

He did not apologize for the behavior that led to his dismissal. In early 2018, he sued PBS, seeking “several million” for breach of his contract. But after a trial in February and March 2020, Smiley was found guilty of breaching the morals clause and ordered to pay the broadcaster $2.6 million.

Six women testified in statements that Smiley pressured them into having sex or made lewd and abusive comments in the workplace. One woman said that when she rejected Smiley’s sexual advances, he told her, “I’ll show you what happens to people when they reject me.”

Another woman testified that she had been fired after having a consensual relationship with Smiley.

Smiley appealed, but his appeal was denied. According to a PBS spokesperson, the ruling has not been paid.

In a 2021 interview about his new radio venture, Smiley continued to deny that he had harassed anyone.

“I have no idea why it happened to me,” he said Associated Press. “This #MeToo moment happened at a time and in such a way that it would have been incredibly difficult, almost impossible, to put forward any other narrative, no matter how true this one might be.”

Smiley has described himself as a supporter of the #MeToo movement, and noted that he has covered women’s rights issues in his shows for years.

Bass succeeds Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose last term in office was dogged by sexual harassment allegations against one of his aides, Rick Jacobs. Garcetti’s appointment as ambassador to India was delayed while the US Senate weighed the impact of the Jacobs affair.