Jeff Smith, better known as the Frugal Gourmet, has agreed to settle sexual-abuse lawsuits with seven men whose cases were scheduled for trial Monday, lawyers for both sides said.
Under the settlement, all of the men who said they were sexually assaulted by Smith when they were teenagers will receive money, F. Mike Shaffer, their Tacoma-based lawyer, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.He wouldn't say how much money they would receive or say whether the deal includes an apology or admission of wrongdoing. The agreement does not require judicial approval, he said.
Smith's attorney, Ed Winskill, confirmed the settlement but gave no details.
The 59-year-old celebrity chef, whose public television show was the most popular TV cooking program in history, declined to comment.
"I'm sorry. I'm cooking lunch for my staff. Call my lawyer in Tacoma. Thank you," Smith told the Post-Intelligencer Wednesday.
The lawsuits, which also name Smith's wife, accused Smith of using alcohol, intimidation and physical force to obtain sex from the mid-1970s until 1992. All the men are former employees except for one, who said Smith picked him up as a hitchhiker and assaulted him.
Smith has not been charged with any crime. The statute of limitations on the alleged offenses has run out.
Once watched by 15 million people a week on 300 public television stations, Smith hasn't taped a new program in some time and has few personal assets left, the Post-Intelligencer reported. Instead, settlement discussions focused on his insurance policies.
Stu Kantor, a spokesman for the Public Broadcasting Service, said PBS has no plans to broadcast new Frugal Gourmet programs but added that the decision was unrelated to Smith's legal problems.