Ian Smith, the former host of the syndicated daytime talk show “The Doctors,” has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the New York State Division of Human Rights alleging racial discrimination and retaliation on the part of ViacomCBS and the show’s producers.
Smith, who was named as the sole host of the show in a drastic reformatting last August, claims his efforts to make the show more inclusive were repeatedly rebuffed by white producers until he was terminated in early January and replaced by a white host.
The complaint lists ViacomCBS, Stage 29 Productions and executive producers Patty Ciano and Jay McGraw as respondents.
“If my client didn’t complain about racism, he would still be the host of ‘The Doctors,’” Smith’s attorney, Rick Ostrove, said in a statement. “His repeated complaints are a show of courage. He stuck his neck out to make the industry more inclusive and make the world a better place. We are exceptionally confident that we will prevail in this case and look forward to trial.”
Representatives for “The Doctors” and ViacomCBS did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Smith originally served as a member of “The Doctors” roundtable for the show’s sixth season in 2013, but was not brought back for Season 7. He was named as the new solo host in August when the show underwent significant reformatting.
The complaint, filed last week, alleges that the vast majority of the show’s producers were white and that Smith’s efforts to diversify the staff fell on deaf ears with Ciano. Smith also accused Ciano and McGraw of repeatedly booking guests connected to McGraw’s other businesses over other qualified guests of color.
Smith also accused Ciano of fostering an “extremely toxic and intimidating” work environment, noting that he filed an anonymous complaint with CBS human resources in November 2021 about her behavior. The investigation was concluded in January and “found no wrongdoing,” according to the complaint.
The complaint also describes a January incident involving “Married to Medicine” star Jacqueline Walters and a Zoom hot mic that led to his termination.
“Between tapings, during friendly banter, Dr. Ian told Dr. Jackie that he no longer watched her show because of ‘how it made us look.’ This was a reference to the highly publicized concerns of people in the minority community that ‘Married to Medicine’ portrays African Americans in a negative light,” the complaint says.
Smith later overheard a producer and her assistants talking about the interaction over a Zoom call they were unaware was still active. One of the assistants was overheard saying, “Just because he’s Black, he can’t get away with s— like that. Someone needs to tell him off.”
Smith confronted the producer about the incident and reported them to Ciano. But Smith was terminated four days later and replaced by Andrew Ordon, a white man. Smith filed another complaint with CBS and says deputy chief compliance officer Linda Davidoff was appointed to investigate the situation in early February. According to the complaint, the investigation remains incomplete.
Earlier this year, Rachel Ross, who served as a co-host on Season 6 with Smith, leveled similar complaints of workplace toxicity and racial discrimination against “The Doctors” and Ciano.
“It’s outrageous that racism is still prevalent in the TV industry in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Smith’s attorney said. “Even after Dr. Ian’s complaints, CBS did nothing to remedy the situation and instead fired him. There was no legitimate business reason for his termination.”