Commentator quits radio show over Obama ‘hate’

April 11, 2008

ATLANTA – Commentator and activist Tavis Smiley has quit the syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show” after 12 years because of the “hate” he got from the show’s mainly black audience over his criticism of Sen. Barack Obama, Joyner sobamaman.jpgaid.

Joyner shocked listeners when he announced Smiley’s departure from the influential radio show on Friday and said he believed Smiley “can’t take the hate” he’d received from listeners who support the Democratic presidential candidate.

“We (the show and its listeners) are so emotional about this Barack Obama candidacy. If you don’t say anything for Barack Obama, you’re considered to be a hater.”

“He (Smiley) loves black America and black America has been very critical of him,” Joyner said on his show, which has millions of listeners. He said he wanted Smiley to reconsider his decision.

Smiley criticized Obama, who would be the first black president, for declining to attend his annual “State of the Black Union” conference in February, a conference attended by Obama’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.

Joyner’s comments raise an issue for blacks who have voted overwhelmingly for Obama in a string of primaries and caucuses: does support for Obama among them run so strong that those who express a different view get a hard time?

Commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson published an online column on Friday backing Smiley’s right to express a dissenting view on Obama and hitting back at his critics.
“Hang tough (Smiley) and don’t let the black Obama thought police run you out,” Hutchinson said in his weekly column.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/John Sommers II (Obama speaks at a campaign stop in Columbus, Indiana, on April 11, 2008) 


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I usually enjoyed Tavis commentaries, but I thought he went to far with his commentary on Barack. I respect his right to have an opposing view, but I knew it may back fire and it did. I hope he will continue on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Barack is not the only thing he has to comment on. He has been cut down a bit, he should dust himself off and get up. I hope his pride is not so great that he cannot learn from this situation and move on. Hopefully, he has grown since the time he was a teenager and not pout like a big baby. Tavis knows the Black community has love for him.

Posted by CH | Report as abusive

Tavis Smiley – is the mouth piece for Hillary Clinton and big business…nothing more/nothing less.

Posted by Dusty | Report as abusive

what has this world come to? everyone says they want to unit the world but yet it comes down to black and white. Blacks only vote for Barac because he is black. hummm what is wrong with this picture. Isnt that “RACIST” people. The past is the past, get over it people!!

Posted by 1cabledgo | Report as abusive

Here’s an interesting article I found today on the web, that pretty much sums up the whole “Tavis Smiley” take on this issue. I’ve included the link, as well as some great excerpts from the article. Take a look:


Tavis Smiley is still whining over Obama not attending his State of the Black Union affair.

He just won’t let up.

I could see it if the scholars, politicians, and community leaders in attendance were actually involved in a sober discussion of the Black condition and ways to move the community forward, but that wasn’t what it was at all.

What it generally turns out to be–and it was true to form this year–is a cross between the Def Philosophy Jam, an infomercial for Tavis Smiley Enterprises, and a Southern revival meeting (“Say amen, Black folk”).

Thus, Senator Obama had to ask himself a very serious question–Do I want to be elected president, or simply hold up a raised fist for Black America? How would you answer that?

Yes, Senator Clinton did attend–but at this point, Hillary would attend a dog fight if she thought it would get her an extra vote.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-Tavis in anyway. Tavis mentioned during the proceedings that some of us wanted to throw him under the bus–and indeed, some of us are like that. When we see a successful young brother with a big future and everything going for himself, the first thing that many of us do is tear him down—just as he’s doing with Barack Obama. That’s an unfortunate part of our cultural makeup.


Posted by DJ | Report as abusive

Over the last few months, if one paid attention to Smiley’s remarks, one can easily see that he favors the Clintons more than Obama.
Having said that, I believe every reporter’s duty is to question the decisions and motivations of our political leaders.
Hillary Clinton claiming to have been a victim of a sniper attack in Bosnia is not only a gross misstatement, but another out of many exagerations and untruths on her part.
Obama calling small town voters “bitter”, is also a bad decision on his part wich will lead to a loss of support by small and big town voters.
What’s becoming increasingly clear is that America is lead by disconected elites who do not feel the economical and social pain felt by many. Neither Obama, Hillary nor McCain represent change, as they all are out of touch with reality and the average voter.
When reporters such as Smiley and many others become aware of this fact and address those issues head on with the voters, then and only then we will have a real campaingn reform and probably a true 3rd party viable alternative.

“Joyner’s comments raise an issue for blacks who have voted overwhelmingly for Obama in a string of primaries and caucuses: does support for Obama among them run so strong that those who express a different view get a hard time?”

A hard time???!!! That is putting it mildly. My caucus last weekend was ugly. And I am sorry to say, it was Obama AA’s supporters who were saying rude, and downright nasty comments to we Clinton supporters. This behavior will do nothing to get their candidate elected, and yes, it will set back race relations. If Obama were not half black, he would not be where he is in this primary. His race brought him to the forefront and now they are doing damage that will take him backwards.

Posted by Nancy in the NW | Report as abusive

Obama’s comments concerning “small town” folks was ill conceived, but hardly hateful. Hateful comments to those who critize Obama are problematic. This campaign is getting far uglier than it should. Both sides are desparate in this close election and both are showing that desparation. In any event, whoever the Democrats should nominate would be a far supierior president than the Republican candidate who supports a ill-conceived war to whatever end, supports tax breaks for the wealthy and complete elimination of the inheritance tax. I shall support either Clinton or Obama…..

Posted by Russell Pope | Report as abusive

It seems that Obama is ready to lead this country. It is far less clear whether Black America is ready for a black president. To deny that there is a strong racial component in Obama’s support base is, in fact, denial. Let’s assume Obama wins the nomination and the White House, inheriting a badly damaged country. Consider the consequences if he and his supporters drop the ball. The next charge to the Right will be led by a group far more insiduous than self-serving merchants and self-absorbed talk radio blow-hards. Race will then clearly be an issue, no denying it.

Posted by gbreite, Baton Rouge LA | Report as abusive

Hate is in everyone’s primal bones, because we fiercly protect what is ours, unto death or other misfortunes. Civility is the key to suppressing this hatred. It must be confronted calmly, slowly and with force, if one hates so much they are willing to do you, or your family, harm…

Well, we just have to wait for Tavis’ endorsement of Hillary. It will happen soon. That was the crux of the problem. He prefers Hillary over Obama, but somehow, was unable to bring himself to do it. Go Tavis, you can do it, Endorse Hillary. After all, Bill Clinton (and by extension, Hillary and Chelsea) was the first black president!

Posted by Israel Nutter | Report as abusive

The “theology” that Wright teaches at his church is nothing like Christianity as most people understand it. The brand of theology which Wright has been teaching Obama and the others at his church is called “black liberation theology.” Wright admits this and it is stated on the church’s website. Black theology is based upon the premise of the white oppressor against the black oppressed. This is why, for example, that Wright refers to Jesus as black, and his killers as white. This is the only way the story of Jesus fits within this brand of “theology.” Rev. Wright cites James Cone, another proponent of black liberation theology, as his theological inspiration. Here are just a couple of James Cone’s quotes: (1) “To be Christian is to be one of those whom God has chosen. God has chosen black people.” (2) “While it is true that blacks do hate whites, black hatred is not racism.” (3) “All white men are responsible for white oppression.” (4) “Theologically, Malcolm X was not far wrong when he called the white man “the devil.” (5) “If there is any contemporary meaning of the Antichrist, the white church seems to be a manifestation of it.” (6) “Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community … Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love.” *** These statements, and this “theology,” are fundamentally racist and divisive. The fact that Obama has chosen to belong to this racist church for 20 years speaks volumes about his character and judgment, and flies in the face of his pronouncements about his ability and intent to “unite” this country.

Posted by james | Report as abusive

I’m sick of hearing Tavis Smiley complain about how Obama didn’t show up for his State of the Black Union, this year or last year. If people haven’t noticed, Obama doesn’t want to be the black candidate. He just wants to be the candidate. There should be no difference between black interests and white interests, or brown interests and yellow interests. It’s American interests. It’s human interests.

The only reason it’s an ‘issue’, Obama being black and Hillary being a woman, is because people won’t stop talking about it. If I was in his position I wouldn’t go to a State of the White Union. I wouldn’t send a signal that one demographic is any more important to me than another, not for votes but for the sake of brotherhood.

He’s not the black candidate, he’s a candidate who happens to be black. Hillary isn’t the woman candidate, but a candidate who happens to be a woman. It’s amazing how many people say they want unity but are so willing to revel in immaturity when given the chance.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

Lets face the reality here. Obama is for blacks and blacks will defend him even if he killed someone. Travis can have a different perspective on Obama. Blacks sold out Travis, who is intelligent and fervent in his desire to advance black agenda. His desire is just as strong as Obama’s. What’s wrong with the black community. Just because Obama is black, he does not automatically become the potential president just for blacks. The is obviously showing to the American people and that is why Obama will be just a senator for Illinois at the end of the day. Your stupidity will be the downfall of Obama.

Posted by Jim Richmond | Report as abusive

I’m black and I live in New Orleans but I don’t know anything about this black union address. Tavis Smiley has not done anything to improve my life in anyway. However, I do know who Obama is and he has had an effect on my life already just as a candidate. I’m voting for him because he can effect my life even more as president in a good way.

It sounds like this Tavis is a pure hater.

Obama is MLK’s dream in the flesh.

Posted by marie | Report as abusive

Why do blacks get a free pass to vote along racial lines?

Posted by Rodrigo | Report as abusive

Not sure exactly why Tavis is leaving the TJMS show. He has served the show well-but the show will not perish because Tavis will no longer be on it. While I agree Tavis has a right to his opinion and his voice is important to Black America, I did think he handled the fact the Obama was unable to attend the State of the Black Union in a less than professional way. He made too big a deal of it. Whether Tavis is for or against Obama is his right–but he needed to understand that Obama had to be in many places and his not attending Tavis’s event does not make him any less interested in Black America or our issues. Tavis needs to pull up a bit–saw him on Real Time with Bill Mahr–he is losing his sense of humor. Excellent comments and insight however.

I am personally elated that Tavis Smiley has left the show.. He has been given way too much time to attack Barack Obama. His comments are unwarranted.. It is very clear he is a Clinton Suck boy and paid by the Clinton’s. He doesn’t attack the Clinton’s at all, not to mention all the stupid stuff she has said.. How do you not know if you are under sniper fire??? DL Hughley, Tavis Smiley and Ben Johnson are all Hilary lying Clinton supporters, how can anyone support this lying, disingenuous woman. She should drop out because she is such a liar. Talking about Rev. Wright could not be her Pastor.. I think most married women would say Bill Clinton could not be their husband. They are such liars, who wants more of the Clinton’s. They have taken black people for granted..

Posted by Cynthia | Report as abusive

Seems like both sides are going overkill on this… it really isn’t that big a deal for Obama to not show up at the Smiley event (for goodness sakes, the guy’s running for president), and it really isn’t a big deal for Tavis to say he was disappointed. What seems to be the real issue here is that everybody seems to think they know what is “right” for black America. Could we settle down and pretend, for a minute, that race is not everything?!

Posted by Ken | Report as abusive

When majority of us are start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, people like Smiley has been out of touch with majority of us. It is sad to see people like Smiley is against most popular among many Americans. Smiley open your eyes and get real!

Posted by Adrianne | Report as abusive

To my fellow American Voters!
Obama should be judged by his sincerity/honesty/intelligence/courage/e loquence,etc which
the other two candidates lack, and not by his colour,
Middle-Name & his half African origine. America is being
given only one chance in history now. There will never be
another OBAMA again, while there will always be thousands of Clintons & McCains!
So my Dear Voters. Do not let this opportunity go astray!

Posted by Jean Michel Nehme | Report as abusive

Tavis comes off as a self centered whiner because Barrack wont play in his game. I’ve always been amazed that people like Tavis have appointed themselves as the spokesperson for the black race. This shows that as long as he feels that he’s somehow better, and can control the siutation he’ll support them, otherwise he’ll do all that he can to destroy them. Shame on you Tavis. You’ve not only lost my ear for your opinion, more importantly you’ve lost my respect.

Posted by Rodtech99 | Report as abusive

All these conversations are only a prelude to bigger things. As an African American it is quite disconcerting when you hear all these negative talks about any one that asks questions. Obama has had overwhelming support from the black community but yet has chosen to distance his campaign from ever being looked on as the “Black candidate”. I think people need to ask themselves why that is. If the black community is to ever move forward, the resentment and hate for has to be put to rest. We should all be at time where we look on all people based on their merit and not their skin color. We should judge all candidates on their message. It is not hate to evaluate and scrutinize all candidates before voting on one. If we don’t scrutinize all candidates how are we to know we picked the best and most qualified candidate? It’s so shameful that we yell racism but yet we vote 90% for Obama solely because is black. We vote for this man (who nobody really knows) because of his color? I think we should see passed that. We should also know that this man also has a white mother.

I ask that we start asking questions and start getting answers. That is the best thing we can do to any candidate we feel is the best pick. Believe me come November, the Republicans will not take it easy on Obama because he is a “Black” candidate. If the black community wants to make race a factor, we can only blame ourselves when Obama loses to McCain. I guarantee this is will be the dirtiest election in our time because race will be a factor. It shows among these blogs. People can’t even whisper one bad thing about Obama. We all I have to say is that he is not my candidate of choice. Having the same race as me doesn’t automatically give someone the foot in the door. I want a candidate who is best qualified and of my pick he just doesn’t make the cut…

Posted by leadNotbeASheep | Report as abusive

I sure hate the vile and negative energy that Tavis and his family has received, but surely he is not the first person to receive hate message from speaking out. I do not feel he should have received it, but I think it comes with the territory.

The behavior he experienced is not something that is just symptomatic to Obama supporters, because I have heard it from Clinton supporters as well. No matter what some people go too far.

Tavis quitting the radio show, is understandable, but I disagree with his methods. Does this mean he is going to give up on Black America, too? Are we not going to see anymore “State of the Unions”, either?

Like someone mentioned eariler….it seems like overkill on both sides. I wish Tavis the best in whatever he decides.

Posted by SMK | Report as abusive

To Tavis: Get over yourslef! Sen. Obama had other priorities during the caucus. Deal with it. And brother to brother, the way you’re dealing with this entire issue has not been a good look for you.

To Tavis’ critics: Don’t be morons! Although we no longer get Tom Joyner in Los Angeles, I can only imagine the nucklehead comments directed at Tavis. He has been committed to the advancement of Black Americans for a very long time and deserves more respect. Even if you don’t agree with his comments, which I happen to disagree with also.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson: Get a life and please have a nice big cup of STFU!! Your criticsms of Obama have been WAY off the mark for quite some time now. So please don’t try to drag Tavis’ good name down your sorry path by attempting to relate to him. His word is credible, yours is not. It’s that simple.

Posted by Alvin C | Report as abusive

The bottom line here is that Smiley got a bit too big for his britches … Once he realized that his “endorsement” of Obama was not going to make or break this man’s bid for President, his commentaries became personal. He lost his perspective as a journalist and went into childish temper tantrum mode. I’m sorry to see it come to this because Smiley is a bright and articulate man who has presented some very interesting insights in his commentaries over the years. And I don’t doubt his love for Black people. Unfortnately, though, he does not seem to be ready to accept that there is another voice that speaks loudly, honestly, and passionately for not only Black Americans, but ALL Americans. Further — and quite frankly, all I’ve really seen Tavis do is talk, hold a “State of Black America” forum, and sell books. This most recent situation has simply exposed Tavis for what he is — a lot of talk and little real action. And terribly, terribly immature.

Posted by EG | Report as abusive

Obama promises change… but he practices intolerance.
He promises bi-partisan politics… but practices partisan rigidity and authority.
He cloaks himself in a dozen flags on stage… but is embarrassed by patriotism and the practice of religion.

Smiley is a good man and entitled to his views without being called a traitor. Is this what they mean by – take no prisoners?

Posted by alance | Report as abusive

what ever happened to voting for the best person for the job?…religion…since when are these the things we vote on and discard the merits and skills the candidate needs to do the job?

Purple with pink poke-a-dots and atheist, who cares!!!

Stop focusing on and discussing the racism and religious hatred and it will stop coming up…and the people can focus on each persons ability to do the job instead.

Posted by cthings | Report as abusive

tavis had the right to voice how he feels, i support him because blacks are voting for him obama because he is black. it look like all the things he has mess up and how he dose stupid stuff it seem to be ok with you black floks. he is not going to put you people in know better place then you are now. you see he lie’s and speakes out of turn , woooo for you presdent hopeful..

Looking at all the posts folks have written shows Tavis was wrong. I don’t agree with him quitting the TJMS because he is getting “angry” messages from listeners. Tavis has a huge ego just like the rest of our community activists. He is a leader. He has a huge audience (me included). But he was simply wrong because he did not want to agree on a compromise with Barack’s campaign. Lest not forget that Michelle Obama sought to sub for her husband on the panel but the offer was turned down by Tavis and company. Even after several attempts to defuse the incident by Barack did nothing but enrage Tavis when he went on the offensive against Barack and his followers. Folks, read his words and look at the timeline on what Tavis said. Look at what Barack said and offered. Then decide for yourself who was wrong. It really did not have to blow up this way and it is sad. I know Tom Joyner feels this way based on how carefully he is choosing his words on this subject. (Thanks Tom!) We all make mistakes Tavis, but true leaders will own up to mistakes, misspoken words or words taken out of context. I have a high regard for Tavis for his lifelong work, but he was wrong this time. Comeback to the fold Tavis and get over it. We still love you, brother!

Posted by B-More in the House | Report as abusive

Hmmm, the only real problem I see with any of this are the people that have been duped into thinking that Obama and Hillary are going to do anything for this nation. How you spell LENIN?

Posted by Mike, Fredericksburg VA | Report as abusive

Tavis Smiley , you are an inspiration. This is coming from an Obama supporter. I appreciate your critical discussions. I appreciate your love for my people. I appreciate you. We all do even if we don’t show it. Thank you brother. Please rest assured that you are doing great works that may not always be accepted without attacks on you but they are always recieved in the spirit of love. Whatever you decide to do, keep the faith.

Posted by CH | Report as abusive

Thge only thing is, Barack Obama is not a black man. The American black community who claim him are claiming someone who is using race to gain a racist advantage and he is not even Black. There are no scientific or logical argiments or tests that can establish that barack Obama is Black. He is and I know you will hate this with all your racist little hearts, but, Barack Obama is a mixed race man and he is probably more White than black based on his ancestors.
To continue to advance the agenda that Senator Obama is Black is racist to the core and pandemicly dishonest.

Posted by Peter Courtenay Stephens | Report as abusive

Liking this a lot – clean and crisp, well done!