Chicago Sun-Times
Discussions across the racial divide

Why is Tavis Smiley dissing Sen. Barack Obama?

| 13 Comments | No TrackBacks

Why--when Sen. Barack Obama is on a roll in the Democratic Primary,--is talk show host and commentator Tavis Smiley stirring up a debate over Obama's decision not to participate in Smiley's 2008 State of the Black Union forum on February 23?

The blogs are buzzing with opinions on this issue.

Certainly someone as politically astute as Smiley knows how critical it is for Obama to be focused on winning Texas, Wisconsin and Ohio in upcoming contests. So what is Smiley's real motive for not working out a compromise by allowing Michelle Obama to take her husband's place?

Early in the campaign, Obama participated in Tavis Smiley's CNN Presidential Debates, appeared before the National Association of Black Journalists, as well as before the Trotter Group, the NAACP and the National Urban League.

I understand Smiley is trying to be the black Larry King, but his ego is out-of-whack. Obama doesn't have to kiss Smiley's butt in order to attract black voters. In fact, in the Louisiana primary, Obama won 86 percent of the African American vote.

Frankly, Smiley had better watch himself before he wrecks himself.

The 2008 State of the Black Union forum is an important national event for Black America, but some people have been so turned off by Smiley's pompous behavior, they are calling for a boycott of the event.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:


How is this a diss. Asking a presidential candidate to come to the symposium to address the people that you are born from concerning the issues that effect them most of all? Why is it that Barack gets a pass when if he were a white man, a member of the GOP we would be crying foul and crucify him. This is both frightening and typical. We give a pass to the brother when we should be holding him accountable. Since when is this OK? Barack Obama is running for president, not dog catcher, not alderman, not mayor of Chicago (although there is something there that needs to be addressed shortly). As such when an opportunity comes to address African Americans on a national level, he should by all means take it as opposed to passing on it as though the audience does not matter, especially when this is the audience that is flocking to you in droves. How difficult would it be be to give a few hours of your time to answer questions in a forum that is as rare as it is important. I hope it is Barack who reconsiders, because in all honesty he is appearing to act as a lot of democratic politicians, who take the black vote for granted.

Dear Mary Mitchell,

I have admired your column in the past, but your journalistic fairness is now being called into question. You have shown repeatedly that you are biased when it comes to reporting on Barack Obama. Have you forgotten that you are a journalist foremost, and that using your column to promote yout disgust, against anyone that is perceived to be against Mr. Obama, suddenly calls into question your journalistic credentials? I find your tactics to be unbecoming of a professional journalist.

And to quote you "Frankly, Smiley had better watch himself before he wrecks himself." You are insinuating that if he doesn't support Obama that he will be ruined. Shame on you, Mary Mitchell! You need to grow up and remove your bias from your column.

Tavis Smiley either can't see the big picture or his ego is blocking the view. This presidential election is the closest in U.S. history and the stakes are very high. Barack Obama already received the majority votes from African Americans in every state he has campaigned so, strategically, doing Tavis’ event at this critical time of his campaign doesn’t make sense. Barack Obama must stay focused on his campaign and winning votes and delegates in states where he could be behind. Surely Smiley must understand this.

I'm very disappointed in Smiley's comments. The outside world already assumes most African Americans neither support or appreciate each other, so Smiley's comments are no surprise to the outside world. However, for African Americans it’s painful and embarrassing. This pompous ego-stroking crabs-in-a-barrel mentality must stop. Only in America could you have a great man like Barack Obama on the doorstep of history as potentially the first African American to hold the office of president for the most powerful country in world -- and someone like Tavis Smiley trying to tarnish his campaign because he feels dissed. Get out of the way Tavis. This race for President is not about your ego, it’s about what is best for America.

Michelle Obama is dynamic and represents Barack and our people well. She also has a very credible and needed message. Saying no to Michelle’s participation is saying no to progress. Saying no also pretty much sums up as an ego issue for Tavis and a direct hit to his Achilles heel (his EGO).

Let’s keep it real, Hillary Clinton is only appearing at Tavis’ symposium because she is desperate for votes. Four weeks earlier she and her husband were calling a 46 year African American presidential candidate “kid” (the 2008 version of “boy”). The Clintons were bold enough to try and pass Bill Clinton off as a the first Black President to get the Black votes, essentially a Black man, on Martin Luther King’s holiday at that. My point is that many people feel that the Black Vote and dollar come cheap and they count on in-fighting and self-hatred to keep it cheap. Surely Tavis is smarter than this.

(Atlanta, GA)

I completely agree with those who say Tavis Smiley is being inconsiderate. Although, I am not at all surprised. I have always felt Tavis was a pompous wind bag who had a self-serving agenda and I frankly do not believe he truly represents the well-being of the African American people. I believe Tavis pulls out the 'race' card because it plays to Black America. But at the end of the day, he is focused soley on furthering his own cause...i.e., his career. I hope this issue backfires and we are freed from his hypocracy forever!!


Since when did Tavis's opinion or events matter? He is just the latest cog in the machine.

I am always amazed when I read something as ignorant as the aforementioned commentary. Thank God for freedom of expression, and freedom of speech. First of all, isint Hillary still in the race? Why is it so important for Obama to campaign before next weeks election, and not Hillary who has confirmed to attend the State of the Union? Why are the inequities, and disparities in Black America so important to Hillary and not Obama? That's the question we should be asking. Are black people that desperate to not do thier own research, and just believe the hype? I am proud of Barack's accomplishments thus far in this race. However, I caint vote for the man simply because he is black. I need to know are the issues concerning Black America not important enough to be addressed, right now? I listened to the Tom Joyner Morning show, and not once did I ever hear Tavis say one negative thing about Barack, or his descion not to attend the State of the Union. The man simply challenged him to address issues concerning the African American community, and announced that Obama declined to attend. And that was after Barack's camp had already posted a letter stating he would not attend. So that makes him a "hater"? And why the Hell would Michelle Obama attend in her husband's place? She aint running for office, and Hillary aint sending Bill. Why are we making a big deal about Tavis, demanding that ANYONE running for the Presidency be held accountable to address issues concerning Black America? And why does everyone think this is all about Tavis Smiley? And kissing his butt, If you know the man, and have been listening to what he has been saying, it's the same thing, which is: make whomever is running in the 08 election earn our vote. But, when he wrote the Covenant Of Black America, 2 years ago we did't know Obama would be running, so why does that change the program? People need to stop throwing up smoke screens using Tavis Smiley, and ask the question why isn't Obama addressing the issues. Are we believing that if Obama wins the the election and enters office. Everyone will then get the "brotha man hook-up". And lastly why the hell would Tavis Smiley want to be the next wrinkle up old white man (Larry King), being black can be a struggle but I am quite sure It aint NEVER going to get that bad for the brotha, he is successful in his own skin.

Is it possible that Tavis does believe that only the presidential candidate should promulgate his/her platform at such an event? Perhaps a 21st Century solution is in order: A video conference!

I do not understand Tavis position on this issue, in fact there is no issue. Here you have the first African American electable candidate in Barack Obama running for the highest office in the country against a viscious and shrewd opponent and Tavis pick this time to be a distraction. Frankly, I think he is an opportunist trying to draw attention to himself and he's absolutely arrogant. I wonder who push him up to do this? hmm

I do not understand Tavis position on this issue, in fact there is no issue. Here you have the first African American electable candidate in Barack Obama running for the highest office in the country against a viscious and shrewd opponent and Tavis pick this time to be a distraction. Frankly, I think he is an opportunist trying to draw attention to himself and he's absolutely arrogant. I wonder who push him up to do this? hmm

If it is critical for the senator to win Texas or Ohio or Wisconsin and if michelle can attend the forum, then where is the beef? I am going to vote for him regardless.

The hell with you Tavis you are a liar, liar liar liar your pants on fire.

Tavis Smiley, Jesse Jackson,Cornell West, and other prominent black leaders are jealous of a black man I can tell you that this is very prominent in the black community..when a black man is moving up other black try to cut him exist in the rap music community(East coast/West coast nonsense). We have to fight against this stupid jealousy that is damaging our community.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mary Mitchell published on February 14, 2008 2:42 PM.

Chicagoans in South Carolina was the previous entry in this blog.

Sen. Barack Obama's letter to Tavis Smiley is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.