Tavis Smiley Responds to Cancellation of “Smiley & West” in Chicago


An Open Letter from Tavis Smiley

Chicago public radio officials felt compelled to add insult to injury when cancelling Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West’s weekly political program. “I do not abide insults to my hard-working and dedicated staff,” said Smiley. “One could argue that it is easier for an African American to be president of the United States than it is to host a primetime radio program on Chicago Public Radio.”


Tavis Smiley Responds to Cancellation of “Smiley & West” in Chicago

An Open Letter from Tavis Smiley

This letter was written by Tavis Smiley, co-host of the radio show, “Smiley & West,” along with Dr. Cornel West. The letter is addressed to Torey Malatia, President and CEO of Chicago Public media, operators of the local public radio station. “Smiley & West” is also threatened with cancellation in Minneapolis, Boston and St. Louis.

When you suggest that I have become ‘far less inclusive’ in my work, you advance a lie.”

Dear Mr. Malatia,

In my 20 years of being a broadcaster, this letter represents the very first time I have felt compelled to write a personal note to the head of a local station.

I was content to simply move on beyond a cancellation decision I vehemently disagreed with, because I respect the public media model that stations know best. That is until I was made privy to the content of your written response to listeners who have been expressing disappointment about the cancellation of Smiley & West on Chicago’s WBEZ 91.5 FM. I must say that the spin found in your letter is beneath you, the station you work for, and moreover the people you serve.  Say nothing of the fact that to my knowledge, at no point did you or your staff ever attempt to communicate to me any of the impressions you so freely shared in your letter to listeners.

The disregard and disrespect for my work one reads in your letter to listeners is too extreme to adequately address in this email; but when you suggest that I have become “far less inclusive” in my work, you advance a lie. A big lie. I’m about to celebrate 10 years on PBS and 12 years on public radio. As an African American in the still-too-lacking-in-diversity world of public media, one does not survive in these environs — much less thrive — if one’s interview style is remotely akin to the intellectual bullying of Bill O’Reilly. To compare my work to his in your letter to listeners is to defame me in the worst way. I take pride in being the first African American in the history of PBS and NPR to simultaneously host his own signature weekday public television and radio shows, opening the doors for other persons of color to now host or co-host award-winning programs over public media.

The spin found in your letter is beneath you, the station you work for, and moreover the people you serve.”

Furthermore, I have two public radio programs as you well know. One that I continue to host solo, the other co-hosted with Cornel West. These two programs, deliberately and unapologetically, could not be any more different in content and style. NOTHING has changed about the format of my solo show which has NONE of my opinion expressed as a part of the production. You no longer carry that program either, which again, is absent of my personal opinion and continues to feature guests almost weekly who express differing opinions on the issues of the day. Additionally, nightly on my PBS program I provide a national platform to a variety of guests, including an entire week this past summer featuring exclusively conservative voices. I am as “inclusive” as I have ever been because I am as curious as I have ever been. I reject and resent the very suggestion by you in letters to listeners that I do not demonstrate a willingness to “respect and hear opposing views.”

IF Smiley & West has experienced any erosion in listenership, it might have something to do with being heard over WBEZ on Sundays at 12Noon when most Black Chicagoans are in worship service. To so blatantly disregard an obviously critical mass of listeners in the scheduling of this program suggests one and or two things:  that you don’t get it or that you don’t care. A premier station in a world class city should not be still struggling with how to truly represent the voices of ALL fellow citizens in the most multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-ethnic Chicago ever. That’s a leadership deficiency. One could argue that it is easier for an African American to be president of the United States than it is to host a primetime radio program on Chicago Public Radio. It seems that WBEZ thinks that just because WVON exists, that it is somehow exempt from being “inclusive.” Respectfully, Mr. Malatia, it takes brass for you to accuse me of being less than “inclusive.” Your job is to program a station that is “reflective of a complex society of varied and uneven life experiences, backgrounds, races, cultures and economic circumstances.” Is this the best that WBEZ can do? How does cancelling Smiley & West advance that mission?

I am as “inclusive” as I have ever been because I am as curious as I have ever been.”

When Smiley & West was rolled out two years ago at the annual PRPD convention, Dr. West and I made it abundantly clear that we were trying something a bit different for some public radio stations. A program that would feature our opinions, but a program that would also have built into every show a segment called “Take ‘Em to Task,” where everyday people all across America could call in to do just that — disagree with us over the airwaves. It has turned out to be one of the most popular parts of the program, giving listeners a say, whether their disagreement with us is cosmetic or monumental. In addition, we heavily promote in each show our “Speak Out Network” where the conversation continues seven days a week on-line, and listeners can at anytime register or post their feedback. Indeed they do. Smiley & West couldn’t be more democratic.

Finally, since each of my radio shows is produced by a different team of professionals, I find it curious that you would suggest to listeners in your letter that my programs were “showing signs of significant declines in production effectiveness and focus.” It’s hard to imagine that all of my producers and engineers suddenly just lost their way. That particular statement in your letter to listeners hurt most. I do not abide insults to my hard-working and dedicated staff. I would never insult the fine team at Chicago Public Radio in that way. Besides, have you paid any attention to our most eclectic guest roster? High caliber guests keep appearing on my programs week in and week out.

Smiley & West couldn’t be more democratic.”

I have only a First Amendment right to free speech, not to a radio program that WBEZ is mandated to broadcast. You’re entitled to your opinions of that program and your executive decisions concerning it, but you’re not entitled to your own set of facts. Particularly when those “facts” are demeaning, derogatory and dead wrong.

I appreciate the opportunity to have been heard over Chicago Public Radio all these years. Even as other stations around the country continue to add Smiley & West (including stations in Chicago we are in talks with even now), I regret that you chose to deny the listeners of WBEZ an opportunity to hear something a little different ONE HOUR a week. To make room for yet another repeat of a program about cars that isn’t even in production any longer. Is that what we need right now as fellow citizens prepare to decide who is best to lead a nation where our democracy is being threatened by poverty, where schools are failing our children, where crime is out of control?

At some point, those who steward public media have to stop insulting those who support public media.

All best,

Tavis Smiley

P.S. Since I do not know how far and wide your letter to listeners has spread, I feel compelled to release this particular letter publicly, so that those who have read your letter and heard the station’s position via various Chicago media outlets can now hear the other side of the story.


"Combo Platter" served up stale and cold.....


"To so blatantly disregard an obviously critical mass of listeners in the scheduling of this program suggests one and or two things: that you don’t get it or that you don’t care. "

Ummm.... I'd venture an educated guess that its a little of both, a delicious combo platter of manufactured consent... or "dissent" if you will, is what all mainstream media strives for.  And I'm sorry... but with the Republicans under Bush II filling the NPR Board with folks hostile to public radio and bullying the remaining stations and staff, NPR has joined the ranks of the Mainstream too.

Look, I'm no big fan of Rev. Sharpton but I at least give him credit for stating the obvious, for going on the record to highlight the blatant absence of any "diversity" of views or color tone during the so-called town hall presidential "debate."  So much for affirmative action huh?

Heaven forbid, Mr. Smiley, that you adopt audience interactive concepts such as a "Speak Out Network," or "Take Em to Task," you might just make some Black folks and other persons of color, or Whites for that matter actually engage in critical thinking.  And we all know that critical thinking in America is one of the most subversive acts one can engage in.  You could get "droned" for critical thinking in America.

An additional observation is this, given the multitude of wealthy African Americans in America perhaps its time for a "true" BET.  One that actually represents and serves the interests of the common Black folk, one that actually illumines Black folk's hopes, desires and grievances as truly MAINSTREAM, one that refuses to capitulate to the vanilla White, mainstream perspective for fear of being labled "radical," one that is financially endowed so that it doesn't have to temper its tongue for fear of losing sponsorship.  We are more than minstrels aren't we?

Interesting how some of the most wealthiest and successful voices in radio today don't hide their radical views and general disdain for all things Afro-Centered and/or Progressive, and yet we (African Americans) cower like little babies at White folks claiming we are radical or "un-American."  Where is the diversity and inclusive with Limbaugh, Savage, Imus, and Boortz?  Overt racism on television and the radio airwaves have produced some of the wealthiest White media stars we've ever witnessed in history.  Have you ever seen overt racism produce so many millionaires?

Pray tell, what has this cowardice and manufactured consent that NPR in Chicago and elsewhere so desperately seeks delivered for African Americans?

Hmmm... maybe Mitt is on to something... maybe Big Bird is a closet Republican???  LOL

obama truth

Could it be simply that Smiley and West speak the truth about obama's many failures in his hometown and Torey didn't like it!

No mention of obama and the chicago mob?

NAACP Official: Obama Campaign Staffer Threatened Me

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The President of the South Suburban Branch of the NAACP alleges a director of the re-election campaign of Barack Obama has threatened and intimidated him because he doesn’t support the president.

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser has the exclusive story.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser Reports


David Lowery says he believes he was threatened during a phone conversation with Louis Raymond, the Illinois political director for Obama for America.

Lowery says he doesn’t personally support the president because he’s not addressing issues important to the black community. He said he was explaining that to Raymond when the Obama campaign official told him, “You know what? I know everything about you.”

Lowery says Raymond added, “We’ve been watching you, and since you don’t support Obama, we’ll deal with you,” before hanging up.

Lowery filed a report with the Oak Forest police report, he says, “in case something happens.”

He says it was suggested the NAACP should automatically back the president. Lowery notes a non-profit cannot support a particular candidate.

He says it’s a clear signal the Obama campaign is concerned about the black vote.

Lowery hosts an internet radio program called “Let the Truth Be Told,” where he’s made no secret of his displeasure with the president.

Louis Raymond declined to comment. The Obama re-election campaign issued a written statement in response to Lowery’s claims.

“Unfortunately there seems to have been a miscommunication regarding this conversation and we have since discussed with the campaign staffer in an effort to clarify the matter. The President continues to support the mission and principles of the NAACP and the work they do,” the statement said.

Lowery says he’s not for Romney, either.


"Ummm......YA THINK my friend!

Again my premise is multiple pressures at work, in addition to not so benign hostility.  First, the wealthy Chicago donors phoned in and said, "Shut these cats down, it's our worse nightmare!"  "A n*gga with a gun...er voice and intellect to boot."  So let's be sure not put them on in a "prime-time" slot that caters to colored folks.  Never mind that Chicago is 32% Black, they all INVISIBLE anyway.

Second, notwithstanding Chicago back-room politics, this cat wasn't feeling Smiley-West REGARDLESS.  He was probably getting grief from his "Liberal" friends when he hung out in Hyde Park or at the Cubs or Sox games.  They probably nick-named him "Son of Jeremiah Wright" for giving these cats the audience.  The Media in America could use its own distinct Affirmative Action laws.  Just because they throw-in Rev. Al or Roland Martin or Melissa, don't mean a damn thing, they Mainstream gatekeepers too.  Ever heard any of them criticize Obama???

The powers that be understand media and cultural power, they understand that propaganda has replaced what used to be "news."  Not that the "news" wasn't propagandized to begin with, just that it's overt and blatant now.  Oh, just like domestic spying is, ain't no thing.  Nothing to see here, move along.

It reminds me of a recent interview I saw with Tavis and Iylana Vanzant where she talked about the cultural narrow-mindedness of television producer-types, how they so rapidly concluded her show would be unsuccessful, now its a hit.  These folks are nothing but gatekeepers who exercise a uniquely American/Western type of censorship.  They are the private sector and public sector gendarmes of the establishment class.  They would fit in well in the old Soviet Union. 

Don't get me started on the "Libs" in Hollywood, we've gone from Academy Award parading of the "Hurt Locker" to Ben Affleck giving us an "Oscar-caliber" performance that demonizes Iran.  To Bill Maher being a blatant, proud Islamophobe.  These cats will stop at nothing, and one day they just might get their wish for a conflict.... But when gas prices shoot into the stratosphere, we'll see what Hollywood's weekend take is.

p.s.  Maybe Oprah and OWN and Tyler will step up and fill in the gap, what yall think?  Am I dreaming or delusional?  Do those two even recognize how much power they have? 

In the words of radio and T.V. land: "stay tuned" boys and girls.  LOL 

Say Obama and Rahm's name

Chicago mobbin:

"The ‘bribe’ to silence Wright"


May 13, 2012


When sermons of Obama’s Chicago pastor, Jeremiah Wright, surfaced during the Iowa primaries, it threatened to derail Obama’s campaign. ABC aired one where Wright screamed, “Goddamn America!” Edward Klein interviewed Wright, who told him Obama’s team tried to buy his silence.

‘Man, the media ate me alive,” Wright told me when we met in his office at Chicago’s Kwame Nkrumah Academy. “After the media went ballistic on me, I received an e-mail offering me money not to preach at all until the November presidential election.”

“Who sent the e-mail?” I asked Wright.

“It was from one of Barack’s closest friends.”
“He offered you money?”

“Not directly,” Wright said. “He sent the offer to one of the members of the church, who sent it to me.”

“How much money did he offer you?”

“One hundred and fifty thousand dollars,” Wright said.

“Did Obama himself ever make an effort to see you?”

“Yes,” Wright said. “Barack said he wanted to meet me in secret, in a secure place. And I said, ‘You’re used to coming to my home, you’ve been here countless times, so what’s wrong with coming to my home?’ So we met in the living room of the parsonage of Trinity United Church of Christ, at South Pleasant Avenue right off 95th Street, just Barack and me. I don’t know if he had a wire on him. His security was outside somewhere.

“And one of the first things Barack said was, ‘I really wish you wouldn’t do any more public speaking until after the November election.’ He knew I had some speaking engagements lined up, and he said, ‘I wish you wouldn’t speak. It’s gonna hurt the campaign if you do that.’

“And what did you say?” I asked. “I said, ‘I don’t see it that way. And anyway, how am I supposed to support my family?’ And he said, ‘Well, I wish you wouldn’t speak in public. The press is gonna eat you alive.’

“Barack said, ‘I’m sorry you don’t see it the way I do. Do you know what your problem is?’ And I said, ‘No, what’s my problem?’ And he said, ‘You have to tell the truth.’ I said, ‘That’s a good problem to have. That’s a good problem for all preachers to have. That’s why I could never be a politician.’

“And he said, ‘It’s going to get worse if you go out there and speak. It’s really going to get worse.’



@Bev re: riots


For my 2 cents, sounds like some bullshit planted by the Right Wing to get their Neanderthals's tits in a ringer.  I can't see Black folks rioting over shit.  Hell... we don't even boycott stuff no more.

Now, on the other hand, when WHOMEVER wins in November joins hands with the House and Senate to cut trillions in domestic spending we may, I repeat may see some rioting... when Negroes can't even get government cheese... when Section 8 vouchers disappear or are greatly reduced and they have to pay market rate rents, or food stamps get significantly reduced, or AID to Dependent Children is greatly reduced.

But rioting just because Obama loses?, nah... that will only happen at select polling stations if and when ignorant-ass Republicans attempt to block folks attempts to vote.

The more likely riot scenario is a combination of voter repression being tied to social service cuts, a "retro-active" effect.  But quite candidly, the enthusiasm for Obama ain't what it was 4 years ago.  Hurt by same-sex marriage, hurt by absence of a "historical first," hurt by chronic unemployment.. hurt by morphing into Bush II on foreign policy, etc..etc.. you get the picture.  There's not enough enthusiasm or invested emotion for a riot. 



Absent some gross hanky-panky at the polls, that is retroactively tied to social service cuts (a White Folks Conspiracy) don't expect any riots, it ain't that serious.  Plus, folks will be too consumed with Monday Night Football and Real Housewives of Atlanta to hit the streets.  Last but not least, the only Black folks IMO who believe in riots anymore are the ones who ain't got shit.  Astute Blacks know that all riots have produced is f***king up our own neighborhoods and businesses, setting us back even more.

I would like to see the art of boycotting come back, but tell a sister she can't shop at Wal-Mart no more.  You'd have an easier time getting her to riot.  LOL

Limits of Left Discourse

I have rarely watched a complete Tavis Smiley PBS show due, in part, to the format and guests that seem to keep him from dealing with too many real issues of importance from a realistic perspective, as I see them.

My impression of Tavis Smiley was of him being, or playing at being, conservative enough to be accepted in the increasingly conservative PBS lineup. Maybe that came from the necessity of conducting interviews by trying to bring out his guest’s perspectives without really asserting his own in the process.

On the other hand, I almost always listen to the Smiley and West radio show (on podcast). It seems that in this combination the real and admirable Smiley is brought out and, together with West, the result is great, intelligent, and entertaining radio.

In an America, where the “Blue Dog Democrat” Obama stakes out the limits of left discourse, I now have a greater appreciation for the work of Tavis Smiley in seeing how many more obstacles he has had to overcome to do his job and his being forced to seek another outlet in his collaboration with West to express his passion for bringing real change.