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Tavis Smiley Bitter for Not Being Invited to the White House; Legitimate Gripe or Whiny, Childish?

TV/radio show host Tavis Smiley, left, and Princeton professor Cornel West

Any legitimate issue that Tavis Smiley raises these days gets crushed under the weight of his Keith Sweat-style whining and moaning about President Obama not inviting him to the White House nor coming on his shows. But Smiley is being disingenuous at the least, and blatantly dishonest at worst.

Smiley and his cohort, Dr. Cornell West, have made quite a name for themselves and are earning quite a living as professional Obama enemies. They provide just enough truth which, camouflaged behind ulterior motives like personal vendettas, they receive audience for their poisonous streams of invectives.

Rolling out attended National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Philadelphia where West was, once again, sticking his needle into Obama’s backside. Of course, since he was in front of an audience, West chose his words much more carefully than he did earlier when he referred to the president as basically a whore to Wall Street and a flunky to aristocrats, lest he incur the audience’s wrath. But the real point here is: if it were not for West’s vituperative attacks on Obama, West would not have gotten the paid gig to appear at the NABJ conference. Without the dastardly vitriol, he and Smiley would not have been invited to appear on C-SPAN, where Smiley told the country that they didn’t get invites to the inauguration.

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 for all of the things that go on there.”

West, unable to resist the urge to back up his boy, blurted out a stream of unconsciousness that undermined his and Smiley’s rants. “Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and the right-wing brothers have access to [Obama] …”

To which Smiley tried to quickly mop up the bad-looking mess by hastily adding: “I’m not crying about it. I only mentioned it because you asked me,” he said to the interviewer. “I usually don’t raise this issue publicly.”

The problem with this statement of not having access is that it is simply not true. Members of the media, which includes yours truly, usually submit requests to the White House to be put on their notification list. They then begin sending daily outlines of the administration’s public and private events that are either open or closed to the media. If it is open to media, then the media can submit for access, and the White House lets each media outlet know if it have been cleared to attend a particular event. I have completed this process on multiple occasions and only a few times have I been denied. I say that to say this: if Tavis was not bequeathed a personal invitation to attend White House events, then he could do what the vast majority of American and international media do: they apply.

So, for Smiley to proclaim before unsuspecting urbanites, who are not aware of how the process works, that he hasn’t gotten an invitation and does not have access to White House events, is simply a wide deviation from the truth. If Smiley wanted to attend one or many of the White House events, he certainly could have — and still can. I have and do not enjoy anywhere in proximity to the national stature that Tavis and West can boast of. I suspect that the “right-wing brothers” that West spoke about also applied the same way as I have in many instances.

The myriad issues plaguing the black community need an eloquent and intelligent voice in order to find viable solutions. The problem with Smiley’s and West’s voices is that theirs are compromised by ego-fueled stunting and grandstanding and contaminated by personal animus towards the president. It is not the points they raise that I take umbrage with; it is the manner in which the message is framed.

terry shropshire


  1. Wide Eyes Open on August 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    First, this characterization of West and Smiley as bitter or haters has to end. They are making legitimate critiques of the president. But it gets drowned out because “writers” like yourself lack the ability to objectively analyze the situation and lazily rehash more content to pile on them.

    You completely missed Tavis’ point about the White House invitations. Smiley is a top rate journalist who has been interviewing world leaders, captains of industry and artists for decades, and still does. Journalists of his caliber are regularly invited to the White House for various high brow events. The WH Correspondence Dinner is one example.

    His point is the WH specifically omits him from these functions, while inviting people like Bill O’Reily, Sean Hannity and other right-wing media types, who actually are hating. So why not invite Smiley? Because he is critical? Well he is a journalist, he’s supposed to be. But he’s raising the question on whether Obama is bitter, or simply not inviting him because he’s black and critical, or progressive and critical.

    This is a fair question to ask, and a much better basis of content than what you presented.

    Terry, you are no Tavis Smiley. You do not have the experiance, record or stature, so comparing your process of access to the WH to Smley’s is laughable. Of course you have to apply for access, you aren’t big time. Major media figures do not have to do this. The WH invites them to notable events out of respect for their stature in media and for Obama to welcome Fox News people who actually hate him and not a fellow brother who is critical of his policies is damming.

    • Datruth on August 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      wides eyes open, you are the one missing the point here, we know why fox news is hatin and lying on obama and people of color know where fox news is coming from, but for tavis & west to be lying and dissing obama is worst, blacks is the ones that needed healthcare reforms, eduacation reform not whites blacks that why the republicans was fighting against healthcare reform, just because obama is smart enough not to lable it healthcare for blacks he is a bad man, west & smiley could be in the hoods helping young black men understand how to apply for loans to go to college & running job programs but no they dont get paid for that, so they go around and do what they get paid to do speak bad on obama, both smiley & west is fluckies, and for all of you that fill obama need to be checked,who do you think should be president, but good luck to all the ones that willing to let others covinced them that obama is against blacks when his kids,wife,grandkids,him & his great grandkids will be black i will end this by saying this if obama was aginst blacks then fox news, and other racist groups wouldnt go aginst his every move, now if you cant see that then obama cant help you no way peace, great story terry keep the exsposer of west & smiley coming !     

      • Amareu on August 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm

        Please cite a lie about Obama either of them made.

        Pay more attention to facts. Obama’s Healthcare plan doesn’t favor black people. It doesn’t even favor middle class and/or poor people. If he was interested in this than he would have championed single payer or had a gov’t option for receiving health insurance that had a higher threshold of income than medicaid does. 
        What instead was passed was a bill that prevents you the option of buying medication abroad and prevents the gov’t from negotiating prices which satisfies pharma companies, as per the back door deal the president made (this is documented, look it up). His healthcare plan is a benefit to insurance companies. It was a corportist bill.

        These 30 million Americans that the WH keeps purporting this “covers” is just the gov’t mandate at work. You will be required by law to have health insurance, or you will be fined. There are worthy reasons for having a mandate, you want to avoid a free rider problem. But If you have a mandate, and have eliminated the gov’t as a option for poor people, and allow private insurance companies to collude, all you are doing is forcing millions of Americans to get insurance they cannot afford from the only player in town, which is the private insurance company. 

        People like West and Smiley pay attention and know this. This isn’t the only for-profit corporate move Obama has made. In fact that’s all he does. He does these things and people like you don’t know because you don’t pay attention. You are so in love or distracted that he’s black that you aren’t seeing what he is doing. And when people call him on it, you want to get mad at them. 

  2. Mary Smith on August 12, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Tavis is piteful. Back in the day he applied for a position with a local news station where I was working and he was extremely late for the interview. Bad move and I see that he has not grown up.

  3. Mistashock on August 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Tavis Smiley and Cornell West are both making a living as professional Uncle Toms. That is why the black community does not respect them. I was at the same conference. If West felt he was so right, he would not have chosen his words so carefully, but even with that, his “crabs in the barrel” mentality still shone through.

    When will they realize that Barack Obama is not the President of just Black America, and he can’t do everything by himself. It’s called politics for a reason. This is a start, a start of a changing of the guard that will take years to accomplish. This is a first step.

    Just him being in the white house has helped black people more than any “program” ever could. Think black people…it’s not illegal yet!

  4. Datruth on August 12, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    wide eyes i respect your views, but by obama being president of the united states, think of how many people of color he has giving the confidience & inspired to do big thangs for years to come, obama have to make deals with otherside, obama need people like west & smiley them in the hoods helping poor people understand how to make the system work for them, either we gone trust and help king obama or help the others remove him and put bush back in office how sara palin sound to you, thinks she be better of course you dont think that, and why not, obama aint perfect but tell me somebody else that in position to be president that will be better for people of color , not anybody someone that really has a shot at becoming president also ask yoself why do rush, glen ,sara and all the racist groups attack obama if he is not a fair person, the same people who attacking obama is the same ones that attacked dr. king , we cant keep marching up and down the streets for justice, we are gone have to go inside the house like obama did and fight for justice either you get it or you dont, God bless you wide eyes have a great weekend peace  

    • Eyes Wide Open on August 12, 2011 at 8:02 pm

      I appreciate where you are coming from, Datruth. But we have to get past all this cosmetic “look how many people Obama inspires by being president.” That isn’t enough, he has to accomplish something, he has to get things done. Simply being a person of color in a major position isn’t enough. Our confidence and inspiration should come from watching black folks be great not just attaining a title.

      I’m not asking for Obama to be perfect, I’m asking him to at least fight for policy that aid the middle class and poor. I’m asking him to take the unemployment situation in the country seriously. I’m asking him to work towards progressive things. This is what I thought I was voting for.

      The president is not working towards your interests. Look beyond his rhetoric, watch what he does. It’s easy to get caught into thinking he’s doing his best but the republicans are the problem, it’s really not that simple. 

      Take a closer look at this debt ceiling drama. First, placing budget cuts on a process so routine is out of the ordinary. But further for the president to put Medicare and SS on the table for cuts is insane. Again, it was Obama that placed on the negotiating table cutting those vital programs, not Republicans. He did this, and increasingly gives up more to the rich and powerful than he wins for you. In this agreement, they have over 2 trillion in spending cuts to mostly programs that help the middle class and poor and not one dollar in increases to taxes to rich folks. Not one. Obama went on the air claiming the rich need to pay their fair share while we look at cuts knowing the proposal he was pushing to get voted on had NO taxes increases and trillions in cuts.

      You mentioned Republican alternatives and would I rather them. Well I don’t know. Do I favor the person who tells me they are for policies that make my life, and the life of my family and friends worse. Or do I support the guy fooling people with his rhetoric while the agenda of Republicans are achieved anyway?

      You make a good point about a better candidate that could win. But, back to Smiley+West, that’s the point. They are trying to influence you all to demand more from Obama, and stop sleeping. They are asking you to take your economic interests seriously and don’t be pacified by your joy of having a black person as president at the expense of the future of you and your children. 

      • Datruth on August 12, 2011 at 9:33 pm

        when you look around the world blacks are the ones that’s suffering all around the world, this unfair doing has been around for years 1000 of years, obama can’t fix things in his term, the president is not the sole controller of this country, the reason that poor people around the world like eygpt for example have screamed for help because they know that a good heart is in the whitehouse they know that obama is for good, question for you if i had 1 full year to dirty up my house and then moved out then you move in would it be fair for me to blame you for not having the house spotless in 1 hour, and checked this out i can come and take pictures of the house with in the first 30 mins of you living there and show & prove to people that you havent cleaned the house and that the house is still dirty, but within that 1st hour of you moving in you have went and got brooms cleaning supllies and everything to start cleaning the house, so for me to be out saying that you are not cleaning the house i will be have to be judging you with no consideration, obama cant fixed what been in places for thousands of year in 8 years but he have went and got all the cleaning supplies, but rememeber they can take pictures with the 1st 30 mins to show and prove that the house is still dirty, expect obama to clean the house in the 1st 20 min, when they couldnt even dirty it up in 1 year, and you and i both know its takes 2 seconds to spills some red punch on the carpet but its gone take longer to clean up, thanks for the debate today i enjoyed it wide eyes open becuse we was respectful to each other when ever i see your comments i will read them have a good weekend !     

  5. Ursella on August 13, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    In “Madeas Voice” Will someone please tell “Amos and Andy” to go somewhere and “Sat Down”

  6. Ursella on August 13, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    In “Madeas Voice” Will someone please tell “Amos and Andy” to go somewhere and “Sat Down”

  7. Whatevs on August 13, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Smiley and West are dinosaurs.

  8. bebop on August 15, 2011 at 1:50 am

    Smiley & West have lost so much credibility over the years…they truly are irrelevant to the issues facing the people anyway. Nothing they do and have done has brought about any changes for the people. They haven’t improved anything. All they do is have forums to TALK and mentally masturbate about what they think our issues are and what they think MIGHT be done about them. On a side note…neither one can keep a woman. Speaks volumes. No, I’m not insinuating…BUT I am saying that they aren’t BALANCED brothers. Obama has his Queen…and whether you personally like him or not, he is to be respected for dealing with this monster of a system period. Tavis sounds like the mama’s boy he’s always been…and on the real…WHEN is the LAST TIME YOU SAY HIM OUT ON A DATE…with a WOMBMAN. Really. Let’s look closer. West…thrice divorced, right?  Things that make you say hmmmmm??? Neither represent manhood well. Especially where our people are concerned. Articulate…sure. Substance…SERIOUSLY LACKING.