Tavis Quits Tom Joyner Over Obama?

The African American Political Pundit is reporting that Tavis Smiley is quitting The Tom Joyner Morning Show because listeners are all up on his jock about Obama.

As we all know Tavis got a little indignant over Barack not showing up for his “State of the Black Union” event for two years in a row now and is very critical of him. He’s warned black people to not get so fanatical without knowing the man position on the issues. He said these things on the radio and we know that Tom Joyner’s audience is very pro-Obama.

Tavis says he left for personal reasons, but Tom put that answer on blast.

Tavis Smiley has resigned as a twice-weekly commentator on the syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show” after 11 years on the air, citing fatigue and a busy schedule in a personal call to Joyner. Joyner disputed that on the air and in his blog, however, 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.”

Read more about Tavis leaving here.

I can’t say I’m surprised Tavis would leave for that reason. Tavis’ feelings and ego are likely bruised and when you’re an egomaniac it’s doubly bruising. People are really on edge over anyone who criticizes Barack Obama. No doubt Tavis was feeling the heat. As you all know, I don’t have a problem with other black people who are not hot for the Hope Man. He’s not for everyone and if you can’t have a debate about his merits and flaws you really need to remove that chip from your shoulder. I voted for Obama in the Missouri Primary, but the man isn’t perfect and even though I understood why he didn’t show up at either “State of the Black Unions,” I can see why some people, including Tavis, would be upset.

They don’t speak up very often for fear of a verbal beat down, but there are black people who feel like Barack is getting a pass on answering the tough questions about issues that affect black people. Some would argue he has to do that to run for president. I don’t know how many time I’ve heard pundits and reporters on TV say Obama can’t be painted as the “black candidate.” The phrasing is lame, but it makes the point that there is a such thing as being “too black” for white America.

Obama can’t afford to be that thing.

Of course, everything in Obama’s background is about black people. He went to an Afrocentric church, married a black woman from Chicago’s South side, worked as a Civil Rights attorney and did volunteer work in the black community. He’s drenched in blackness, so to speak. If it weren’t for his polite, baritone voice and Harvard Law demeanor he wouldn’t seem much different from other black American politicians.

You can argue about Tavis’ motivations, but the real argument is with the facts on hand. Tavis hasn’t made ad hominen attacks on Obama, he’s criticized him for avoiding “blackness.” It would make more since to argue (or defend) why Obama did what he did than go into pique over a few harsh assessments.

The Washington Post wrote of Tavis and his critiques:

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.” …

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.

I do think Tavis’ quitting is rather childish. As a journalist, reporter, pundit and commentator you are going to deal with criticism. I get criticized. Everyone gets criticized. You’re asking for it the minute you put your opinions out there. I’d respect Tavis more if he’d simply slugged it out and didn’t like the heat get to him, but this reaction is simply pathetic and cowardly.

If we as a people can’t have a responsible debate about Barack Obama without resorting to bitching and personal attacks we should either grow up or shut up. And I’m talking about both sides. In that same Washington Post article fellow radio taker and CNN commentator Roland Martin admitted he was surprised by Tavis departing the show.

“You have to expect to get heat the moment you decide to offer critical comments about politics or social issues,” Martin said. “You have to be tough enough to take it.”

Added Martin: “For a long time, Tavis was used to people applauding him for taking tough stances. . . . This was the first time he had taken a position that flat-out ticked off his core audience. But [criticism] comes with the territory.”

But some at the Huffington Post was more sympathetic to Tavis’ decision.

(A)uthor and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson suggested that Smiley was the victim of “the black Obama thought police,” which had subjected him to “a verbal public lynching” for comments that ran counter to mainstream black opinion.

I’m standing by my opinions that black Obama critics should just take the heat. Black people are not always going to agree with you and they have the right not to agree with you. It’s true that some people take any critique of Obama too personally and do turn into the “Obama thought police,” as Hutchinson said, but by quitting you’re essentially giving up, taking your toys away and going home. Emotions and tensions are high in this campaign. Everyone is edgy. Everyone is excited. Everyone is tightly wound up. But that’s reason more so not to quit if you truly believe Obama needs to be critiqued.

If journalism is what you profess to love you have to love it for better and for worse. You’re in the “for worse,” Tavis. We’ve all been there before, so suck it up.

15 thoughts on “Tavis Quits Tom Joyner Over Obama?

  1. I agree completely. Why cower to the pressure? You have the right to speak your mind and this is your passion. I couldn’t imagine giving up my life’s work for idiots.I can’t believe how extreme some of his critics are. Death threats? Is it that serious? I can’t say that I’m all that fond of Obama’s extremist Black supporters. They’re just really extra in their behavior and not paying attention to the issues. They’re no better than the crazed White women that are voting with their vaginas for Billary.I plan to vote for Obama BTW.

  2. anonymiss: It just seems pathetic to let some pro-Obamamaniacs punk you. Now the Obamamaniacs are scary. They give us regular Obama supporters all a bad name. They’re just nutso. I like Obama, but I’m not phoning in death threats or calling folks “Uncle Toms” for backing Hillary. That just seems moronic. It’s a damn Democracy, people. And the crazy old feminists for Hillary are annoying too. Geraldine Ferraro’s bitter ass was driving me nuts.

  3. The chickens have come home to roost(excuse my metaphor)But Tavis is now, perhaps, dealing with the very thing he’s dished out. Now he is the one in the black community who is out of favor. Journalist have to be careful about labeling certain black people as not “black enough”: coming to mind are people like Clarence Thomas, Armstrong Williams, Condoleeza Rice and the list goes on. It can be intoxicating to a journalist to use words and ideas to negate the voice of members of a community , and or to judge these members for not reflecting mainstream ideas. We as a people have to look more introspectively at how we can be more inclusive of listening to disparate views within our own community.

  4. Or maybe he really just has a lot more going on now (like his documentary) and the Tom Joyner gig had to go. The Obamamaniacs might have just been reason #11 of his Top 10 Reasons to Leave. Remember, that statement was Tom’s speculation.

  5. So I must admit I cackled when I heard about those death threats last month. Moreso because I thought it was a JOKE than because I wish him harm. I mean, seriously, why would I kill someone simply because they disagree with me!? But in his defense, he also said they were extending the threats to his family, mother specifically, so perhaps this was a group decision?The year the SOTBU was held @ Hampton, I was 1. disgusted that McDonald’s thought I would want SWEET TEA at 8 IN THE MORNING after standing outside in 30-40 degree weather for hours. 2. disappointed that the panels spent so much time roasting Obama and Oprah rather than providing feasible solutions for the problems THEY said were affecting the black community.I’m not up for sitting through another conversation w/”leading blacks” like Al and Jesse, myself. I’m w/Barack, count me out! Lol.

  6. tiffany: That’s true. He could have left purely because he was too busy. For me, personally, it seemed odd as Tavis has been very successful for some time and to leave so abruptly usually means he’s had a falling out with management or a falling out with the content of the show, otherwise they would have a more orderly transition. Not a bitter one where the host is undercutting your reason for leaving and claiming it was sour “Obama” grapes.fantastically misunderstood me: Yeah. Those death threats sounded rather lame, but I don’t know. Maybe they were all extra scary and Obama-tinted like:”I HOPE you quit Tom Joyner’s show or you won’t HOPE to live for very long.””I can’t believe the AUDACITY of you existing.””I HOPE you CHANGE for the better, Smiley or you won’t believe the AUDACITY of the cops finding half your body in KENYA and the other half in KANSAS!!!”

  7. Black folk were ok with Tavis criticizing Obama.What they weren’t ok with was:1. It seems as if it was PERSONAL2. When it began to seem that he was pulling hit jobs on Obama FOR Hillary. I, for one, don’t believe for one minute that there were any death threats against Tavis. Just a way to slander Obama’s Black supporters. Tavis, well, I believe he might have “issues” with Sistas in his peer group. The perceived disrespecting of Michelle Obama did not go over well w/the TJ audience.

  8. rikyrah: Oooh, HELL no! I don’t care if you have a problem with the “O” Man, but I will bring the entire can o’ whoop ass for Michelle. Someone hold my purse and give me a rubber band to tie my hair back! I will not tolerate Michelle hate! Her ass is not running for president. I will cut a bitch. No lie!

  9. Tavis got a dose of the accountability he is always championing for other people. As another said, black folk don’t have a problem with criticizing Obama. The problem with Tavis was that too often, it just was not substantial. Asserting that someone is not being strident enough about racial issues, or not confrontational enough is fine, but it needs to be in context. Obama’s context is that he is running for POTUS and he can’t go all angry let me hold white america accountable black man every day. The brother is already in a trick box, and constantly challenging his blackness because he does not do or say what Tavis or Cornel West’s far left wing black liberal selves think does not entitle them to pull his black card.Tavis wanted to pull his black card because he didn’t come to the SOBU and then he and West got themselves in a bunch because he didn’t go to Memphis. Those are TRIVIAL reasons to question whether or not he is committed to black people. If you gonna put my blackness in question, you better have a far better reason than I didn’t show up to the cultural equivalent of a really big Negro dinner event. Thats what got Tavis called out, because he is constantly questioning a brother who is not doing anything wrong, trying to do something right, yet Tavis is constantly issuing these warnings to watch out for Obama, check him good. I don’t hear him issuing check warnings on Al Sharpton’s BS or the sorry ass mess of a Kwame Kilpatrick. Black people are not stupid and we listened to Tavis’s little commentaries. When you keep trying to raise fundamental questions about a person’s character, black identity and the like based on fairly trivial issues like what event he didn’t go to, you should not be surprised if you get called on your crap. Attending the SOBU or even a big event in honor of Dr. King is NOT the standard for anybody’s black commitment and the day that is all that is required to have your black card stamped approved will be a sorry day indeed.

  10. Aaron & Alaine: I’m not an avid listener of Tom’s show, so most of my experience with Tavis has been via PBS and other randomness. I’d heard an earful from others on his criticism of Obama, but I didn’t know enough first hand to understand what his deal was.So what you had to say was pretty interesting (actually, what everyone has had to say was pretty interesting.) I didn’t really understand Tavis’ indignation over the SOBU event and I chalked it up to ego. But I too do not measure Obama’s “blackness” on showing up at SOBU considering HOARDS of politicians have come and gone at these things and done next to nothing for black people. Obama can get a lifetime pass on skipping every black event from Juneteenth picnics to Kwanazaa candle lighting ceremonies from me if he can get a Snob some heath care.For real.

  11. There are so many issues affecting Tavis’ core audience that predated Barack’s deciding to run for President thathe could go a year without ever mentioning Barack’s name.That is why I question Tavis’ incessant Barack bashing, especially on the Tom Joyner show.I watch his PBS show semi regularly and thought he was great on Bill Maher’s show discussing MLK Jr’s speeches that called for an end to the Vietnam War and castigated America’s love of violence and warmongering. But if Tavis wants to be taken seriously, he needs to be evenhanded and from his commentary it seems that he gives the Clintons a pass every single time. He needs to let the fact that Barack didn’t attend his convention go…in the same way I let it go that his PBS show is funded by WAL-MART.

  12. tallulah: With my degree in armchair psychology I’ll say it’s all about ego. A lot of major black public figures — from activists to journalists to academics to politicians — went through this identity crisis after Obama came out. They pouted, feeling like their influence and status were being eclipsed by this snot-nosed, hot shot punk out of Harvard (hence all the ‘not back enough’ garbage).While most got over it, it’s quite likely Tavis never did.It’s like how at one of my old newsrooms all the men were single and kind of fuddy-duddy but got a lot of dates because of the incestuous nature of the newsroom. Then a really hot guy came to work at the paper and every EverQuest playing dork had an identity crisis and hated him. Most got over it but for a few, those bastards were bitter to the very end.Perhaps that’s where Tavis is living.

  13. Tavis quit like punk. No need to give him an out. Now that his annual pimping of black folks for sponsors is over (y’all know it as the SOTBU) what exactly is he so busy with?Nah, he quit cause folks were asking why he wanted Obama to speak to black issues but didn’t ask the same of Hillary or Edwards. Or wondering why he never called out Miss Ann and Bubba over their blatant race-baiting.I wold have preferred if people were upset with him because he was pimping us out the highest bidder every year at the State of the Black Union. As I wrote on my blog on this post http://ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com/2008/02/selling-out.html, Smiley’s big event was nothing but a moneymaker for him and his sponsors. Good riddance to bad garbage.

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