Tavis Smiley: Obama Is The First President Who Hasn’t Invited Me To White House

By Gary A. Johnson

Earlier this week Princeton Professor Cornel West recently spoke to The Huffington Post about media coverage of black issues.  West made the point that President Obama is avoiding journalists who’ve offered tough critiques of his administration, such West’s friend and business partner Tavis Smiley.  “Obama won’t touch him with a 10-foot pole,” West said.

On Wednesday, Smiley backed up West’s viewpoint during a C-SPAN sit-down with him to discuss their 16-city poverty tour.

“Prior to his being elected, he came on my radio programs and TV programs with regularity,” Smiley said. “Once he got elected and my critique of him — about holding him accountable to various things didn’t sit so well with him or the people around him — he has not, at this point, come on my TV or radio programs one time since he’s been in this White House.”

Smiley said that Obama, whom he’s known for years, “is the first president in my professional career that hasn’t invited me to the White House.”

Is this a case of Tavis and West being Obama haters?  Or does this unlikely duo make a valid point?  Tavis comes off as such a self absorbed and pretentious crybaby.  This often gets in the way when he levels valid criticism against the President.

Comedian and radio host Steve Harvey has an opinion.  Here’s what Harvey had to say:

“I was a huge fan of Cornel West,” he said. “[But] Tavis, I seen him coming a mile away. His anger started when he had a town hall meeting, President Obama couldn’t come because of the campaign trail and he sent Mrs. Obama.  He has held that grudge every since.”

He continued, “You don’t have any real basis behind your dislike for this man…you keep masking it saying it’s not about hate. Then what is it about? Poverty existed before January 20, 2008. Where was your damn bus then?”

“Who in the hell got 2-3 days for your ass?  I ain’t got time to sit down with your monkey behind for two, three days, let alone the President of the United States.  We got three wars going on, the economy crashing and we going to sit down with Tavis ass for three days?”

Harvey then speculated that Smiley is being funded by someone to say these things and produce the poverty tour.  Harvey continued his rant by referring to Smiley and West as being affiliated with UTLO.org (which stands out for “Uncle Tom Look Out”).

Despite the criticism, Smiley remains focused.  In an interview with the Associated Press, Smiley said that the Poverty tour has gone exactly the way he and West planned.  “I am very clear on who I am and who I am not, what I can do and what I can not.”  “I have a platform that I can use to bring awareness, to draw attention and create a conversation.”

He went on to add that, “and its not just about raising awareness, it’s about starting a dialogue about poverty and the poor in this country.  I don’t get intimidated by haters. . . The question that I would pose to the critics is not why are we doing what we are doing or saying, it’s ‘if you care about poor people why aren’t you doing anything?'”

Let me be as clear as I can be about my position.  President Obama should be held accountable and criticized.  To say that he should not be held accountable and criticized would be a ridiculous position to hold.  Personally, I don’t like the President’s economic advisers as a collective body.  I don’t think they have served him well.  I would also like to see a little more fight in the President, especially, when addressing critical issues to the American people.  The Republicans and Tea Party members don’t seem to have suffered from taking hardline positions on issues.

It is still very early in the election campaign for President and anything can happen at anytime.

Now back to Tavis, Cornel West and Steve Harvey.  Last month we were talking about Tavis, Cornel West, Tom Joyner and Al Sharpton.  Is Tavis turning into an Obama-hater?  Or is he simply following his conscious and doing what he believes needs to be done and said?

What do you think?

Click here to visit the Poverty Tour web site.


Update:  On August 16, 2011, approximately three days after referring to Tavis Smiley and Cornel West as Uncle Toms, Comedian and Radio Host Steve Harvey apologized on the air to Messrs West and Smiley for referring to them as Uncle Toms.  Harvey stated that he respected both men and claimed that the Uncle Tom portion of his remarks were part of a radio bit meant to be funny.  Harvey was clear that he was only apologizing for the Uncle Tom reference and that he still vehemently disagreed with the position of the two and that he (Harvey) stands by his other remarks.

Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In America.com a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In America.com Blog. Gary is also the author of the book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.


14 Responses to “Tavis Smiley: Obama Is The First President Who Hasn’t Invited Me To White House”

  1. Montie Pierson Says:

    It is sad to see, the discontent of the brothers I like and have seen so much on television and entertainment and I could say some educational viewing and reading. There have been so many in our history and heritage that wanted to see some unity, if not all the way unity. It is sad to see, that very close to home for me, I am arguing with some of my brothers about our President Barack Obama. It is sad to see, that the President came in, I believe, with the best of intentions for all of America, and now we see people mad, sad and feeling bad all over. Was it enough that white people lost their damn minds and showed their asses? Now we see the brothers going after each other about President Obama. We will be dedicating a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this month and I like so many brothers will be filled with pride and emotionally crying for a brotherman who gave his life and did not want to see what is going on between Mr. Tavis Smiley, Professor Cornel West and Mr. Steve Harvey. All three of these men I have watched and heard and listened to and learned from them. I believe they are men that Dr. King wanted to see and be who they are. I also believe, he wanted them and all black men to work hard at being brothers to each other. I know it is not easy doing this. I have two of my three brothers with me still. One of my brothers was killed back in 1994. That one tragedy affected me so badly from then until now. You just do not realize how you loved them until they are gone. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in my father’s generation. My father , considered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a brother to him. I consider Tavis Smiley as my brother. I consider Professor Cornel West as my brother. I consider Steve Harvey as my brother. I consider Gary A. Johnson as my brother. I consider President Barack Obama as my little brother who did one hell of an achievement to accomplish becoming the first brother to be President of the United States. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew the job would not be easy, but, somebody had to do it . I am sure he did not want argument amongst the brothers I speak of here in my reply. I am sure there is a way for all to get together and have a common resolve. I do not argue or fight with the two brothers I have since I lost the one brother in 1994. It is a very sincere and personal choice of mine. I want to see all the brothers stop the arguing and fighting. I believe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted the same. One of my favorite quotes of Dr. Martin Luther King :
    “If we cannot join hands in brotherhood, we will all perish as fools”
    I may not have the quote exactly right, but you know I did learn something form Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
    =====================================================One more note and thought here:
    Minister Louis Farrakhan was at the Chicago Event. I have learned something from this gentleman also. I have watched a few of his lectures. He was in Los Angeles years ago. He made this quote at that lecture.
    “The enemy to us all, has made us enemies to each other.”
    I like so many watch, listen and learn.
    Peace and Blessings be with all my brothers,
    =====================================================THANK YOU >>> DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

  2. Montie Pierson Says:

    sorry about grammatical and typing errors in my reply.
    Peace, Blessings,
    Mr. Bromont

  3. Renee Spivey Says:

    Steve Harvey kills the King’s English, but he usually has something to say worth listening to if you can find your way through the broken English. With all that our President is dealing with, who the HELL has time for Tavis Smiley? Hell, Obama has not invited me to the White House and I am not upset (smile). The man is busier than a one-armed-paper-hanger with alligators nipping at his heels. Can’t you just see the evening news, “Today President Obama Entertained Some Homeboys In the Rose Garden.” With all the haters (black and white) out there doing their thing, while disguised as The Tea Party, this is not the time for the likes of the Smiley’s of the world to be screaming foul because they want some face time with the President. That’s my opinion and I am sticking with it.
    With utmost respect,
    The Golf Lady

  4. President Obama is a very busy man dealing with serious issues that affect our country. He is also tasked on a daily basis with trying to clean up the mess he inherited from George Bush on Day One. He is fighting Republicans like John Boehner who attack at every turn and disagree with him for the sake disagreeing. I am sure President Obama feels the same as any Americans that George Bush, John Boehner, and the other Republicans got us in this mess which President Obama is trying to clean up, so I find it hard to believe they have the solution to fixing the problem.

    With that being said, why would Tavis Smiley and Cornel West think President Obama has any time for their ignorant asses. He is suppose to make time for these fools simply because they are black and he is a black President. Smiley and West need to realize this country present has very serious issues and President Obama is busy deal with serious problems and ignorant ass at home and abroad. Therefore, I am sure President Obama does not have time to spend dealing with other ignorant folks who are just starving for attention. Neither of these fools have never did anything significant except attempt to capture media attention.

    It is very sad that two black men who to my recollection supported Hillary Clinton when she was running for President against Obama. Now, they are attacking him for not inviting them to the White House . I have to wonder whose bidding are they doing now, their own or maybe Hillary Clinton or John Boehner. We all know the verbal attacks , character assassination and other methods of disgrace of President Obama have begun because the re-election is getting closer. Republicans have been known to utilize tools such as West and Smiley to do their bidding and eliminate any suspicion or involvement.

    Smiley and West are prime examples of what Willie Lynch taught people on the Banks of the Potomac in 1712. I am always surprised at the Black people who have never Googled and read the speech of Willie Lynch in 1712. In this speech Lynch assured the slave owners his methods would work for 300 hundred or longer if properly instituted. Smiley and West solidify Willie Lynch teachings.

    • Montie Pierson Says:

      A ” Hear Hear” , from Mr. Bromont.
      “Those who do not learn from the past, are doomed to repeat it”

    • They are ego tripping. They dont deserve Obama’s ear. They think Romney is going to help the poor? They need to get off the cross…

  5. greg gowen Says:

    Tavis is such a hater, sad since he can give such a nice line on not hating and being responsible, except when it comes to any accountability or critique of the president, then he turns rabid. Stop giving people a pass just because of their color, don’t you see that’s racist? no other group has done as poorly under this president as the black community has done, and guess what? no other group will give him as many votes for his re-election as the black community. Its just based on color, that is racist.

  6. Harvey is spot on. I listen to Tavis’ show and all it is is a venue Obama hating punching bag. As if Obama hasn’t been dealing with one of the largest recessions since the depression. I mean, he smacks of spite and anger, and unrealistic expectations of Obama. It makes total sense now, he felt dissed! I think Travis needs a bit more humility and to not love his own voice so much.

  7. I respect all three men, West, Harvey, and Smiley as “good hearted” men who want to do well by the African-American community, as well as the greater human family. I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with each other–as well as with the President. (I voted for Obama in both ’08 and ’12.) I agree with Smiley that it is note-worthy that Mr. Obama is more willing to engage with Fox News personalities than with him or West. I will further argue, that I consider Smiley are more “even-handed” advocate for his causes than the examples he’s cited (Hannity and O’Reilly, who behave more blatantly as bald-face liars – and yes, my politics could fairly be questioned as biasing my opinion here). Until Family Feud, and then his TV show, I didn’t know that much about him. He was my least-favorite comic among the Kings, but he was OK. After checking out Feud and the Steve Harvey show, I started to warm up to the man–he seems like he’s really trying to do some good in the world. I believe West and Smiley are too. The “Uncle Tom” label is serious business, though, and I’m glad Steve clarified his remarks. I think it’s a shame when people who probably agree on most things foment disproportionate discord on the things they don’t–and then make it personal. That undermines one’s position, I believe. Finally–an aside to the author of this piece–you may have made a typo that your spell check didn’t catch, because the misspelled word is a different word spelled correctly, when you wrote: “Or is he simply following his conscious and doing….” I think the word that fits the sentence better is “conscience.” Thanks!

  8. And yeah, I just noticed I made some typos too! (“I consider Smiley are…” should have been “I consider Smiley a…”) I was also not completely clear when shifting attention from Smiley and West to Mr. Harvey when I wrote “Until Family Feud…” although most who know that Steve hosts the current version of that show would have figured it out. Whoops!

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