NPR, Where They Sneer at the 'Vanilla Side of Town' and Laugh at 'Kill Whitey' Jokes

NPR is supposed to be a very, very civil space to talk. But apparently not when NPR stations air the weekend talk show of PBS star Tavis Smiley and his Marxist professor friend, Cornel West. Brian Maloney at the Radio Equalizer was disturbed by West alleging the media and the politicians only care about the "vanilla side of town" and the hosts were "laughing hysterically at a 'kill Whitey' joke." Their guest was 1970s Saturday Night Live star Garrett Morris. Maloney asked, "Can you imagine jokes about killing black people airing on NPR?"

Smiley & West (podcasts here) is distributed by PRI (Public Radio International) across the country and debuted in 2010.

Smiley was laughing at Morris’s banter from the beginning they began with an old SNL skit where Morris sang about how “I’m gonna kill all the whiteys I see.” It was inspired by a (true?) story about a white woman allegedly being pressed into singing her favorite song on an Art Linkletter program and she sang about how “I’m gonna kill all the [n-words] I see.” Smiley laughed at that, at how Linkletter “got burned” by the racist woman. Morris explained:

MORRIS: Bill Duke and I and some other people we did a thing called "Slave Ship" and so when we were improvising with, you know, Imamu [Amiri Baraka] and Gilbert Moses and the NAC and places like that, we did more improvisation that was for real, about problems of addiction and stuff like that. And so we didn’t have a lot of comedy and our improvisational space went from 'Hate whitey' to 'Kill whitey,' which is a very small space.

CORNEL WEST: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

TAVIS SMILEY: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! A very small space, that’s funny!

Morris added his SNL castmates had a much broader style of improvisation with humor: "I stood there in amazement that they had shtick they could come up with that was funny, whereas I had a lot of angst and stuff, but not really stuff that was going to make you laugh."

Morris also mocked Jesus with a curse word on the program, that he would naturally attract women who wanted to have sex with him:  "We don’t know what Jesus did between 12 and 30.  You mean a man is back there healing people every other way and some lady gonna say please [bleep] me.  Come on. Oh, my God, did I use a four letter word?  Oh, my God.  Please forgive me."

Earlier, Smiley and West discussed the death of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham:

SMILEY:  NYPD, you know, has the best training of a police force in this country. It's just hard to figure out how somebody who's unarmed ends up being put to death this way.

WEST: If the same thing happened on the vanilla side of town, among the upper-middle class white brothers and sisters, there would be a major outrage and in fact we’d probably get some comment from the White House, we’d get comments from the governor. We’d get comments not just from the mayor, but from a whole wave of people who for the most part are silent about these things. And it’s just sad and ridiculous that we have to deal with this kind of double standard.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis