PBS Star Tavis Smiley Slams Obama For Having No 'Genuine Love' for Black Journalists

Brian Maloney at Radio Equalizer found that on his Sunday public-radio show with socialist professor Cornel West, PBS host Tavis Smiley thumped Obama chief of staff Valerie Jarrett for an apparently rude speech at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in New Orleans on  June 23. She came to describe Obama's "genuine love for black people," which Smiley thought was ridiculous since Obama did not show up.

Several NABJ vets did complain to blogger Richard Prince about Jarrett reading a list of Obama accomplishments: "Why not just send a [campaign] video?" one said. "That was out of line," said another afterward.

Kevin Merida at The Washington Post found it interesting that one journalist asked Jarrett if Obama didn't want to be more authentically black:

One journalist asked if there weren’t times when Obama just wanted to be “unabashedly black,” and not so careful in calibrating his racial identity.

“You know what? He is black,” Jarrett said. “He’s the black president. He doesn’t hide it. How can you hide being black?”

For his part, Smiley just wanted to bang away at his regular theme that the president should be shoveling more government cash toward blacks, because that's how you "show the love" -- you hand out the checks:

TAVIS SMILEY: Valerie Jarrett you know of course the President’s top African-American staffer inside the White House was one of the keynote speakers at the NABJ Convention. This is the annual gathering of the nations National Association of Black Journalists, all the black journalists who belong to this organization were in New Orleans for their annual convention. This is an election year and so the president didn’t make it but he sent Valerie Jarrett and she was there.

And she did in fact say to a room packed full of African-American journalists that the president has genuine love for black people. What’s fascinating about that to me, a few things: number one, that I’ve never heard the president say that. So, to send a surrogate out to tell people that he really loves you is fascinating for me if the president himself doesn’t tell you that I love you. You know that’s like me sending you to tell my momma that I love her.

Secondly, she offered that love report at the same time that these new census numbers show that the wealth inequality gap between white and black folk has doubled during the president's term in office, so black wealth continues to evaporate.  That goes to your list of things that make you wonder and question how deep the love really is.  Put another way, where is the love?

...Some folk in the audience really wanted to hear her [Jarrett] just talk about issues and talk about the campaign and talk about things that really matter. But she got up and just read down this laundry list of accomplishments and there were folk in the audience who like okay, we got it.

But the presentation didn’t work because it was just a resuscitation [sic] of talking points as if she felt she needed to convince this audience with these talking points that he really had done something that she had to convince them and so here comes the phrase of genuine love. It just struck some in the audience I’m told that she was really really you know working hard to try to sell this story to an audience of black journalists? What do you make of that?

CORNEL WEST: You know I think anytime you have genuine love though, brother, you usually you don’t even have to say it because your record already shows it. I tell my mother I love her, but she already knows it because I’d take a bullet for her. She knows that if the bullet coming I’m jumping in the way. So the love is the kind of thing already manifests so strongly that to even talk about it is just to put icing on the cake. And I think she has to say it cause she knows that there’s deep questions in the minds of so many people including black people as to where his commitments really are.

Not only did Jarrett speak to the NABJ convention, the White House also sent Vice President Biden. No Republicans appeared.

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