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.