Was Tavis a victim of group think?

Posted: April 11, 2008 in Uncategorized


(I was running around for a good part of the day and would have posted this sooner)

Per Mo’ Kelly’s blog :


There is no way to put into words the love and respect that Tom Joyner and I have for each other, or the love affair that I’ve had with TJMS listeners for almost 12 years now.

Due to the overwhelming amount of phone calls and emails I have received from listeners and other media, I wanted to briefly clarify a few issues that I will address more fully in my regular TJMS commentary on Tuesday morning, April 15, at 8:20 a.m. ET.

I did not “quit” the Tom Joyner Morning Show effective immediately. In July I will celebrate my 12th anniversary with the show, and as I discussed with Tom, it is my intention to take on the issues of the day in my commentary twice every week with the same energy, passion and commitment until the end of June.

Contrary to what has been suggested, I have decided to clear some things off my plate so that I can devote my time and attention to some exciting and empowering projects that The Smiley Group, Inc. and other divisions of my company have underway this summer, this fall and beyond.

I look forward to continuing the dialogue on Tuesday and in the coming months.


I just found out by way of Darkstar’s blog that Tavis Smiley quit from his segment on the Tom Joyner Show. I checked out a couple of blogs to see If I could find the EXACT reason why he left. It appears that most folks are running with the notion that he left because he could not take the criticism he was getting from other Blacks for not falling in line in the Obama train. The other theory is that he was jealous of Obama. So far, this is all I could find from any newspaper–

Commentator Tavis Smiley walks off Tom Joyner Morning Show

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Commentator Tavis Smiley reportedly has left his longtime post as a contributor on the Tom Joyner Morning Show.

Smiley, who hosts a PBS show, joined the syndicated radio show in 1996, according to host Joyner. The announcement was made by Joyner on this morning’s show.

Some callers into the Tom Joyner Morning Show expressed dismay that Smiley would no longer be on the show. Reportedly, Smiley left because of response from some fans of the show that he was too harsh on presidential candidate Barak Obama, with a couple of callers saying that Smiley was “jealous” of Obama.

Joyner denounced that Smiley was jealous of Obama, saying that Smiley felt so hurt by that impression that he decided to not be on the show.

Smiley previously hosted a show on National Public Radio. The Tom Joyner Morning Show airs on Hot 105 in South Florida. (source)

I was able to find the article where he talked about getting death treats for being critical of Obama. Listen to the sounds of diversity—-

Tavis Smiley, the bestselling author of the “Covenant With Black America,” is in a world turned upside down. He said he’s being “hammered,” “barbecued,” and is “catching hell” from black Americans for suggesting that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made a major mistake by declining to speak at the State of the Black Union event that Smiley plans to host next week in New Orleans.

“There’s all this talk of hater, sellout and traitor,” Smiley said to me in a telephone interview. Smiley even mentioned getting death threats, but wouldn’t elaborate. He said his office has been flooded with angry e-mails. “I have family in Indianapolis. They are harassing my momma, harassing my brother. It’s getting to be crazy,” Smiley said. (source)

Regardless for the real real reason why he decided to leave the show, Tavis is yet another clear example of what happens when you do not think in the group format. He was safe when talking about his Covenant With Black America. When Republicans did not show up to his sponsored debate, everybody jumped on his bandwagon. Calling out Bush? Aaaaaaamen, brutha! PREACH! Calling out Conservatives? Safe. Even when Democrats appeared to be weak on Black issues, when he called them out, he was safe. Then came Obama. His criticism for Obama was automatically interpreted as bashing (the term folks like to assign criticism when it does not go with their narrative. And that narrative? “He’s Black, you’re Black, Whites actually like him so shut up and support him and keep your criticisms offline”).

But, but Duane, when Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton ran for president, Blacks did not automatically support them.

True. But as I BOLDED above, neither had wide support from Whites. And we know full well that without their support, there would be no chance for a Black man to be president in this country. Obama has that support, so group think here is in full effect whether folks want to accept that proven fact or not. When you threaten folks for not thinking like you and fellow supporters barely condemn these actions, that is group think.

Here is and excerpt of what Jackie Young posted on her blog about the situation:

“I’m perplexed also about this “we-need-to-all-agree” mentality. Is it me or does it lay over the Black community like smog? No, we DON’T all have to agree. We DO have to respect each others’ choices and thought processes. As far as this election is concerned, one thing that has always bothered me is this: how is it that reasonably intelligent people whose candidate of choice differs from someone else’s automatically make the other person wrong? See, for me? The same way they took the time and effort to (hopefully) listen to the candidates on the things that matter most to them, the same way they reviewed their candidates record…I did the same thing. So I’m not easily swayed by anything that ANYBODY says.” (more…)


Black Ohioans Backing Clinton Feel the Pressure to Switch

  1. Aaron says:

    Tavis was not a victim of groupthink. He was a victim of the accountability he so ardently wanted to champion. Specifically, he got some push back and criticism on two specific occasions for questioning Obama’s commitment to the community for fairly trivial reasons. The first was when he criticized him for staying on the campaign trail rather than attending his event, the SOBU, and the second, his more recent co-signing of Cornel West’s criticism of Obama in the Huffington Post for not attending the King commemoration events in Memphis.

    As I noted at my own blog, for people such as West and Tavis who often preach “accountability”, to pull Obama’s black card because he didn’t show up to these two events is ridiculous. You are essentially questioning his commitment to support the aspirations of black people because he didn’t come to the cultural/political equivalent of a big Negro dinner event. Its the same logic being used to tear apart Jeremiah Wright. He has had his entire life of military and ministerial service boiled down to about 60 seconds of video. On the basis of that, his character and integrity have been questioned. Tavis and West are doing the same here.

    Tavis’ justification was that King was an American hero and should be honored. Mind you, there were many prominent blacks who were not there, but I don’t see Tavis picking on them. Nor have I seen Tavis or West in Memphis every year on MLK’s anniversary laying a wreath. Should we pull their black card for all the years they weren’t on hand organizing a great tribute? Al Sharpton and the King family put on the commemoration and the march that followed, and while much was made of McCain and Clinton for showing up, they were only there for press events early in the day and they did not march with the King family.

    Obama communicated with the family and Sharpton before the march to explain that he would not be attending and everybody was cool. Sharpton went on the Tom Joyner show and said he didn’t understand what the critics were talking about.

    Further, EVEN IF Sharpton and the King family were not cool with Obama not attending because he chose to stay on the campaign trail, so what? Its a purely symbolic event. Nothing changes in the ghettos of America because Obama was or was not there. He’s busy trying to make some black history, not relive it and genuflecting at the grave of the civil rights establishment’s sacred cows because Tavis and West think you should is not the standard by which his or anybody’s commitment to the struggle should be judged.

    Most black folk are level headed and fair and Tom Joyner’s audience were pretty clear in their response that this was some bogus crap to question whether Obama was down or not. And when you roll out the same kind of attack on the brother’s character a second time because he did not engage in some symbolic exercise that you did, then the common sense black folk of the world start wondering what your problem is. Tavis didn’t like getting called on his own crap by the folk, the simple black masses out here, so he packed up his bag and went home. Essentially, he got his feelings hurt. We all still love him, I’ll still watch his show and keep an eye on what he is doing, but I have little sympathy. If you can’t take the same kind of heat you dish out, maybe you should go home.

    Tavis and West would both be cool if they were trying to get in Obama’s grill on something substantive. But when you try to pull somebody’s black card for stupid reasons, don’t be surprised if you get push back.

    King will be dead next year this time too, and I’ll be looking to see if Tavis and West make a pilgrimage to Memphis to lay a wreath. If they don’t, I’ll be looking to pull their black cards.

  2. DarkStar says:

    A big quibble: whites actually liked Jesse Jackson, Sr, in fact, whites support of Jackson was the reason why he created the Rainbow Coalition after his run for the Dem nomination.

  3. Carl says:

    I support Obama, and I FULLY respect anyone’s right to support whoever they want. The issue with Smiley is and has been (going back to when he got canned by BET) is that while he’s so resolute in his ability to “criticize” anybody HE disagrees with; he clearly folds when the heat comes back on him. A real man wouldn’t just cave at under a little heat. Tavis needs to grow a backbone, if he has any hope of being the “Black leader” he professes to be.

    I’m sorry that it had to come about this way, but I’m glad his true character has been exposed.

  4. Give it a rest! says:

    I think there are quite a few blacks with established power bases that do have a problem with Barak Obama because they view his success and the success of other blacks like him as detrimental to their power base.

    We have seen the same thing in Newark NJ with the election of Cory Booker as mayor.

    Tavis needs to act a little smarter and accept the fact that most rank and file black folks feel that most of our established black politicians and celebs are already in the pocket of H. Clinton. Many have already made very arrogant claims about how Hillary is more qualitfied than Obama. Needless to say as they have ran to support her, her camp has been invloved in some very negative racial politics, making them appear as a bunch of “sellouts”.

    Tavis, right or wrong is being included in this group. Considering his postion I am shocked to think that he did not expect to get this type of criticism thrown at him. I am even more shocked to find out he can’t handle it.

    This story do not help him at all, it really makes him look like a prima-dona with rather thin skin.

  5. Duane says:

    A big quibble: whites actually liked Jesse Jackson, Sr

    Not like they do with Obama. O is pulling Whites from all over with the states to prove it. Jackson support from Whites pales in comparison.

    I just hope that this wasn’t the real reason why Tavis left the show because if that is the case–oh well!

  6. Wizz says:

    Why does it have to be “group think”? Maybe the majority of people who usually like Tavis just genuinely disagree with him on this and are vocal about it. Of course it is wrong that some idiot sent death threats.. But he ain’t the first black public official to get death threats, nor we he be the last. That comes with expressing your strong opinions over the air waves… Idiots have ears too.

  7. Duane says:

    Maybe the majority of people who usually like Tavis just genuinely disagree with him on this and are vocal about it.


    You just redefined the “group think” mentality here! While the “majority” you speak of is free to voice their disapproval of his opinion, that should not include putting his Blackness into question.

    He is not the only one. Take Jehmu Greene for example. You can also read the link to the NY Times article I included in this post.

    You may not like the term “group think” being applied here, but I’m sorry. ANYTIME one side has members who is willing to go to extremes to get you to agree with them while the silent majority of supporters approves it by not calling it out as they typically would do in other cases is a group that is fearful of thinking beyond its own set boundaries.

    Don’t like what Tavis has to say? Fine. Then folks should listen to someone else instead of wasting time making him into the class coon. Obama is doing fine in the polls and no Tavis in the world can jinx that.

    Any movement that does not have a demonstrated ability to correct itself (or the tolerance for it) is one that is ultimately setting itself up for future disappointment.

  8. MIB says:

    How is it on the one hand you can prompt your remarks by saying, “Regardless for the real reason why [Smiley] decided to leave the show…”, then on the other claim him to be the victim of (Black) conformity when you obviously have no clue as to what actually transpired?

    My goodness.

  9. Duane says:

    More Friday follies, ‘ey MIB?

    “then on the other claim him to be the victim of (Black) conformity”


    Why do keep doing this to yourself?

    Creating what isn’t there?

    This entire post dealt with what Tavis has been dealing with UP–TO–THIS–POINT. The title of this post was done intentionally to pull out critics like yourself just to further demonstrate how folks can get the whole story wrong. As for the post itself, I talked exclusively about the treatment he and others had already been getting from the Obama fan base (something I had already done in other posts in the past). That to me was the bigger issue–not his departure (and the post reflects that sentiment). Mo’Kelly and I talk from time to time via e-mail (he works with Smiley) and I knew he would have the lowdown on the situation. As I expected, he posted what I eventually placed on the top of this post.

  10. MIB says:

    Since you were so kind to once again don an intellectual curly wig, shiny red plastic nose, polka dot jumper, and over-sized shoes, I’d be remiss not to stop and guffaw at another one of your pratfalls into a steaming pile of rhetorical elephant dung.

    First, you have no idea what Smiley, “… has been dealing with UP-TO-THIS-POINT [emphasis yours]”. You’ve offered some idle conjecture — a deeply conspiranoid scenario where Obama’s Black thought police bullied Smiley off the radio — itself an amusing tale considering the source. When asked for evidence, you suggest Smiley’s actions are a collateral issue to the alleged coercion of Obama’s Black supporters, which makes one wonder why bring up Smiley at all if (as you imply) whatever he did isn’t really central to your point.

    Second, you’re not smart or skilled enough to bait me into a logic trap or committing similar fallacies. You’ve proven quite adept at producing your own pretzel reasoning all by yourself.

    For now, I’ll just ask another question: what evidence do you have in support of your contention a sizeable cross-section of Obama’s Black supporters are attempting to stifle dissent against the candidate?

  11. Wizz says:

    By YOUR definition then you participate in group think by being a conservative. Since I don’t see very many conservatives speaking out against a LOT of conservatives who accuse liberals of being unpatriotic Americans who don’t love their country.

  12. Anonymiss says:

    This is really sad. Why cower to the pressure? You have the right to speak your mind and this is your passion. I couldn’t imagine giving up my life’s work for idiots.

    I can’t believe how extreme some of his critics are. Death threats? Is it that serious? I can’t say that I’m all that fond of Obama’s extremist Black supporters. They’re just really extra in their behavior and not paying attention to the issues. They’re no better than the crazed White women that are voting with their vaginas for Billary.

    I plan to vote for Obama BTW.

  13. Duane says:


    So I guess you skipped over your usual steps and went to the insults already. Great.

    First, you have no idea what Smiley, “… has been dealing with UP-TO-THIS-POINT

    Denial #1

    When you decide to read the statements he (Smiley) made in the interview I posted, then I will equally pretend that you have something substantial to add to this discussion.

    Denial #2

    Second, you’re not smart or skilled enough to bait me into a logic trap or committing similar fallacies.

    MIB, you have become very predictable on this site. So before you launch into your usual 10-12 comment string to prove that somehow you have not taken the bait, stop and notice who is keeping this post alive with endless comments.

    a deeply conspiranoid scenario where Obama’s Black thought police bullied Smiley off the radio

    Again, I never suggested this. Once again you skip over everything I said on the contrary (both in the post and in comments), pulled out what YOU wanted to believe and made your own talking point.

  14. Duane says:


    Here is what I said in the post about “group think”

    When you threaten folks for not thinking like you and fellow supporters barely condemn these actions, that is group think.

    Are Conservatives guilty of this? You bet. Anytime a person is labeled “anti-American” for being critical of Bush, America or the war is wrong. I talked about this some time ago on this site.

    But again, you are deflecting here. I’m not talking about conservatives—in fact, I’m not even talking about liberals. My aim is pointed directly at the folks I described in my excerpt above.

    You yourself come to this site willingly and on your own. While we may disagree on some things, your comments are always welcomed here. I have not once put your Blackness into question just because we disagree. This is not the case in the examples I cited in the post.

    Now, am I suggesting that EVERY Obama supporter winks at this kind of stuff? No. What I said here only applies to those who know that they are guilty. If this does not apply to you, then speak for own your actions and respond accordingly. Most readers on this site understand this.

  15. MIB says:

    “This entire post dealt with what Tavis has been dealing with UP–TO–THIS–POINT.”

    What exactly has Smiley been dealing with “UP-TO-THIS-POINT”? Again, it’s your contention he’s facing the outrage from a few pro-Obama Blacks, emboldened by a larger, silent pro-Obama group (?) — an issue not raised or supported by Smiley or Mo’Kelly.

    Please enlighten us as to your special perspective for deducing that intricately delusional scenario.

    “The title of this post was done intentionally to pull out critics like yourself just to further demonstrate how folks can get the whole story wrong.”

    What story would that be? Or, whose story? When you wrote,

    “… Tavis is yet another clear example of what happens when you do not think in the group format”,

    it’s very obvious your story is the tired canard Black people are a political monolith who excoriate and exile dissenters. My criticism of your story is it’s more a projection of your profound dogmatic attitudes than an examination of fact.

  16. Sepialove says:

    It is sad that some black people are not willing to have a REAL dialogue about Obama and shed the “rock star/ messiah” hysteria that exists within his campaign. I find some black folks believe Obama shouldn’t receive the same scrutiny and answer questions from OUR community.

    How sad it is that SOME blacks feel that the black community doesn’t warrant an debating forum from the man that may become the President of the United States.

    Tavis had and has every right to his opinion.

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