By now, many are growing suspicious that PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley is holding a grudge against President Barack Obama. But he thinks it’s just the opposite.
Monday on the Fox News Channel, he announced that he was ousted as the speaker at a Martin Luther King luncheon because he was trying to hold the president accountable.
“I don’t see my role as one of criticizing the president. I see my role as one of holding the president – this and every other president- accountable,” Smiley said.
“Something is wrong with this country … that so often the political right, and I am no defender of the political right … gets accused of playing the game of political correctness. What this underscores is that those on the left, the Democrats can play that game of political correctness as well,” he added.
Smiley was booted from the 20th annual MLK luncheon on Jan. 16, hosted by the Peoria Civic Center. The group announced last week that Smiley had been replaced by Michael Eric Dyson as the guest speaker of the event, citing people who were “upset about comments that Tavis Smiley has made.”
“What’s important to us is putting together a luncheon that celebrates the life and work of Dr. King,” luncheon organizer Alma Brown said last week, according to a local report. “And it became evident over the last few days that people were upset about comments that Tavis Smiley had made, comments that we weren’t aware of unfortunately, so we made the decision to cancel his contract.”
Last summer, Smiley teamed with social activist and author Cornel West to embark on a 16-city “poverty bus tour” to highlight the economic disparity in the country, especially as it affected the nation’s African-American community. Smiley said in an interview that “it would be nice to hear the president say the word ‘poor’ — to say the word ‘poverty.'”
“But we can’t get this president or any leaders to say the words ‘poor’ or ‘poverty,’ much less do anything about it,” he said.
Smiley, who has maintained that Obama has not done enough for African-Americans, insisted that a number of black leaders – who he never named – initially supported his book, “The Covenant with Black America,” but have now done a complete “180-degree turn” and walked away from his grassroots ideology.