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

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

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