Syndicated radio host, television extraordinaire and activist Tavis Smiley is celebrating 10 years of his television show airing on PBS. Smiley is one of the hardest working men in the news business, running the daily talk program along with public radio’s “The Tavis Smiley Show” and his “Smiley & West” platform with scholar Cornel West.
Smiley has garnered numerous critics for his blunt commentary on issues, particularly those pertaining to President Barack Obama.
One of his biggest points of contention with Obama is pressure from the administration on his PBS show sponsors to stop supporting the program. Since Smiley owns the show, he is responsible for funding it. The White House had no comment, but Smiley insists the administration is dissatisfied with his observations on drones, military policies and other issues.
“This administration does not like to be criticized. And the irony of it is, there’s nothing I have tried to hold the president accountable on that my white progressive colleagues have not,” Smiley said. “They’re labeled courageous critics, but if I say it, I’m an `Obama critic.’ There’s race at play in the very question.”
“I don’t have an anti-Barack agenda,” he continued, “but this is what I do: My job is to raise questions of accountability.”
Conservatives have not embraced Smiley, though he is an Obama critic. Glenn Beck, a conservative pundit and former Fox News Channel host, initiated an anti-Smiley letter-writing campaign. Others have dismissed his work as that of a black-leftist.
Fox News Channel commentator Glenn Beck spurred anti-Smiley letter-writing campaigns to PBS, Smiley said.
None of these hurdles are halting Smiley’s grind.
“Since Obama has been president, I’ve had not one, but two, New York Times best-selling books, been on the cover of Time and made its 100 list,” Smiley said.
He sees it all as a part of a larger mission.
“You’re going to be challenged when you address inconvenient truths. Sometimes you’re challenged with merit, sometimes without merit. I try to be authentic and be a truth-teller. I have no monopoly on the truth but can try to raise questions that get at the truth.”