Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Saturday, April 12, 2008
It had to happen...
Not surprised to hear that Tavis Smiley has quit the Tom Joyner Morning Show over the firestorm surrounding his repeated criticisms of Barack Obama. Joyner is an Obama supporter, and he has recently become much warmer with people like Al Sharpton, who very shrewdly dropped his early attacks on Barack and became tactically neutral, and Michael Baisden, who's unabashedly pro-Obama. Here's the story:

One of Sen. Barack Obama's toughest African American critics is quitting his long association with a national radio show after facing a backlash from the program's listeners.

Tavis Smiley said yesterday he will resign in June as a twice-weekly commentator on the syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show" after more than 11 years with the program. He cited fatigue and a busy schedule in a personal call to Joyner on Thursday night, but Joyner indicated otherwise on his program and in his blog yesterday, writing: "The real reason is that he can't take the hate he's been getting regarding the Barack issue -- hate from the black people that he loves so much."

Smiley has taken on Obama in a series of commentaries that began as the Democrat from Illinois emerged as the party's front-runner for the presidential nomination in early January. Days after Obama's win in the Iowa caucus, Smiley warned on Joyner's show: "Don't fall so madly in love [with Obama] that you surrender your power to hold people accountable. . . . I'm not saying overlook Senator Obama, but you now better be ready to look him over."

That commentary brought a hail of critical phone calls and e-mails down on Smiley, who replied two days later on the Joyner show that he stood by his criticism. "It's all about accountability," he said at the time.

Since then, amid mounting counter-criticism, Smiley has stepped up his critiques, contending that Obama wasn't sufficiently attentive to issues involving African Americans.

He was also critical of Obama's decision not to attend an annual forum, the State of the Black Union, that Smiley hosted in February in New Orleans. Obama's rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, accepted Smiley's invitation to the event. When the Obama campaign offered Michelle Obama, the senator's wife, as a substitute speaker, Smiley said publicly the offer was unacceptable.

He also rebuked Obama this month for not traveling to Memphis for the 40th anniversary ceremonies marking the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and for Obama's decision to distance himself from controversial remarks made by the Obama family's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. ...
Roland Martin, another up and comer in the Black commentary world, has also implied that Tavis is used to getting accolades, and can't take the barbs, but it's easy to say that when you're not on the receiving end. I have sharply disagreed with and been disappointed by what has come across to me as "hateration" on Obama by Smiley (I've even reported on it.) In many ways, Tavis seems to resent the fact that Obama's "post-racial" candidacy (or his formerly post-racial candidacy) makes people like him, for whom racial politics is the stock and trade, appear less relevant.

However, I'm reluctant to jump on the "get Smiley" bandwagon, perhaps because I was doing a talk radio show in the early days of the Obama campaign, and remember defending Barack on the air against far greater and more voluminous bashing from my callers, co-host and bosses, than I heard support. I also recall that the majority of Black Americans were ardent Hillary supporters, and actually rejected Barack's candidacy until he managed to win the lily white state of Iowa. Only then did the mass of Black folk relent, and back down on the cat calls of "he's not Black enough." The only difference is, Tavis kept talking when the others jumped on the bandwagon.

Tavis, like Andrew Young and Rep. John Lewis, and God knows, BET's Bob Johnson, strikes me as a man on the wrong side of history, fighting against the furtherance of what had appeared to be their own dreams, by so doggedly resisting Barack's candidacy (Lewis excepted -- he seems to be genuinely struggling, because of the aforementioned group, he seems to be the only one who knows he's on the wrong side of history...) But Smiley's commentaries have been a highlight of the Tom Joyner show, which otherwise, I must admit I don't listen to. So in that sense, I'm sorry to see him go.

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posted by JReid @ 12:16 AM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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