So this has gradually become a life’s mission for me. As I mentioned in a recent discussion, these two represent the very same kind of Black people who delivered African-Americans into slavery when we were in Africa: “Hurry, everyone, and bring your children! The nice White man wants to take you for a boat-ride!”
The one-hour show will expand to two hours starting Jan. 17. The first topic addressed under the new format will be poverty as the roundtable discussion coincides with the 50th anniversary of the War n Poverty.
*Tavis Smiley, who has been a fixture at PBS for ten years, will now add two more.
The “Tavis Smiley” show has been renewed through 2015, PBS announced this morning.
“The highlight for me is surviving,” Smiley said, noting the growing competitiveness in the late-night talk show realm.
He said he’s unfazed by the coming shake-up that will see Jay Leno step down (again) as host of NBC’s “Tonight,” with the venerable show heading east as Jimmy Fallon takes over in February.
“For us, it’s the same old, same old — another white guy joins the line up,” Smiley said. “In some ways, it might benefit us because ‘Tonight’ is moving to New York. So that’s one less option that guests in LA have to be booked on.
“I love Jay, but I was teasing him the other day that we actually benefit by him going off the air,” Smiley said.
He’s not alone in breaking up the largely white men’s club in late night, with Arsenio Hall’s return this fall in syndication. Hall already made a dent with his 1989-94 series, but Smiley’s 10-year-old program makes him the minority host with the most staying power.
Smiley is proud of the perspective he brings as an African-American. But it’s his mix of guests, which goes beyond ethnic diversity, that he believes have contributed to his longevity.
“What’s made our show work is that it’s hybrid: We’re both entertainment and information,” he said. His guests have ranged from celebrities including Tom Cruise and Mary J. Blige to Hillary Clinton and others in politics and public affairs.
And everyone gets their say on “Tavis Smiley,” he noted, including the musicians who typically play and leave on other shows. He also welcomes veteran stars, who he considers “the best storytellers ever,” despite TV’s preference for younger performers and viewers.
Beth Hoppe, PBS’ chief programmer and general manager, called Smiley’s show an “important asset” for public TV. He also has produced “Tavis Smiley Reports” specials for PBS.
“Tavis and his colleagues produce shows that bring an intellectual richness to our audience with its mix of news and entertainment,” Hoppe said in a statement.
Wal-Mart, which has funded the show since its start, will continue to support it, PBS said.
Among those who top his wish list of guests are Barbra Streisand, whom he’s interviewed on radio but not TV; Diana Ross, and a certain media magnate.
“Trust me, I’ve got some things to ask Rupert Murdoch,” Smiley said, sounding delighted at the prospect.
He doesn’t shrink from controversy. Smiley has drawn the ire of conservatives and, because of his insistent criticism of President Barack Obama’s policies, that of some liberals and African-Americans.
Smiley, who is writing a book about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., also is heard on public radio’s “The Tavis Smiley Show” and “Smiley & West,” the latter a forum for commentary he shares with scholar and activist Cornel West.
If you missed it, last week he was on “Hannity” on Fox News to debate the shutdown and out of that appearance, Smiley said that the lot of black Americans has not improved under this current presidency.
“Are black Americans better off five years into the Obama presidency?” Hannity bluntly asked.
“Let me answer your question very forthrightly: No, they are not,” Smiley said. “The data is going to indicate, sadly, that when the Obama administration is over, black people will have lost ground in every single leading economic indicator category.”
“On that regard,” he added, “the president ought to be held responsible.”
“I respect the president. I will protect the president. And I will correct the president. He’s right on this government shutdown. Republicans are thwarting the rule of law with the Constitution. If they let this debt go into default, they’re trampling again on the Constitution.”
*The Rev. Anthony Evans, President of the National Black Church Initiative, says the following regarding those who criticize Tavis Smiley and Cornel West:
“I am ashamed of my people that they will go after one of ours – Tavis and Cornel – as they defend the dignity of black people. When I heard that black people and some black women have threaten Tavis’ life I stopped being ashamed and was horrified of the way that we have begun to treat one another. The Black Church will have none of this in our community. The person who threatens and criticizes Tavis and Cornel is morally wrong and should be condemned. Beloved, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West are defenders of dignity and what is good and honorable in the black community. They are not political opportunist who will kick these brothers and misrepresent their thoughts in the media and especially in the black press. Shame on anyone who will harm these brothers by words or action. These two brothers represent the Christ who cared and loved the poor. The church according to our Lord and savior must defend the poor—NBCI speaks for the poor-this is our job.”
In response to your letter I’d like to say, without any equivocation, that Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, your representatives of “The Christ,” are quintessential frauds. West has a vested interest in promoting controversy, regardless to what he has to say to do it. He’s a part of the Tavis Smiley “gin mill” for controversy that includes television production companies, a book publishing company, a speakers bureau – which pays West $30,000 per speech – and a radio production company. They’re very livelihood DEPENDS on stirring up controversy. Without it, they’re out of business.
And if you’ll notice, West has never uttered a word of moral indignation about Tavis Smiley’s involvement in the Wells Fargo “Ghetto Loan” scam, which victimized over 30,000 poor minorities, that Wells Fargo Bank settled in court for $175 million, and the Justice Department said was the second largest housing discrimination case in the history of the nation. Cornel West is the quintessential phony – both he and Tavis Smiley. And further, have you ever heard either of them utter one word of criticism regarding the abusive business practices of Walmart or any of their other ALEC- related corporate associates? Not a word! So take a minute to ask yourself, why?
Rev., you said, “These two brothers represent the Christ who cared and loved the poor. The church according to our Lord and savior must defend the poor—NBCI speaks for the poor-this is our job.”
I have two things to say in that regard. First, I doubt very seriously that Smiley and West represent “The Christ,” because from what I was taught about “The Christ,” he’s not in the habit of employing poverty pimps and hustlers. And secondly, if you support Tavis Smiley and claim to speak for the poor, you might want to ask Smiley, on behalf of the poor, to give them their money back. After all, he is Mr. Accountability, right?
And finally, Reverend, get over yourself, and stop running around trying to lecture the Black community like you’re the Lord’s Chief of Staff, because you’re not. You’re a preacher, period – and based on your letter - and your seeming propensity to jump out front on an issue before investigating the facts - you’re one with very poor judgment..
The new two-hour format is a renewal of Smiley’s commitment to conversations of importance to America. The show will continue to focus on a wide range of issues including politics, business, health, sports, arts and culture, and will feature a broad spectrum of newsmakers and commentators. Tony Marcano, formerly of Weekend Edition on NPR, will be the program’s senior producer.
The final edition of Smiley & West will air the weekend of Dec. 27, 2013.
“I was blessed to work with my dear Brother Tavis and we stood on the forefront of bringing prophetic perspectives to loyal listeners on the important issues we face today,” said West. “As I move forward, I carry with me the knowledge that Smiley & West leaves a definitive mark in public radio.”
“Creating a radio show to co-host with Dr. Cornel West is one of the highlights of my career,” Smiley said. “I have been blessed to work alongside the person I regard as America’s leading public intellectual.”
Smiley and West are appreciative to Public Radio International (PRI) for the opportunity and grateful to the listening audience for its embrace. They emphasized that Smiley & West would not be the outstanding show it is without the expertise and hard work of producer Joe Zefran.
Both agree that it is critical to offer differing viewpoints on the airwaves, especially the stories of the more than 45 million Americans living in poverty.
Smiley will be devoting more time to the Tavis Smiley Network, the first online programming network for BlogTalkRadio.
About The Tavis Smiley Show
The Tavis Smiley Show from PRI is a blend of substantive and provocative discussions on a wide range of topics including: politics, health, finance, sports, technology and pop culture. An insightful exploration of the issues that matter from fresh, diverse points of view is the show’s hallmark. The Tavis Smiley Show is produced by Smiley Radio Properties, Inc. in partnership with Public Radio International (PRI) and is hosted by Tavis Smiley. Smiley is the first American ever to simultaneously host signature talk shows on both public television and public radio. TIME magazine honored him as one of the “The World’s 100 Most Influential People,” in 2009. NEWSWEEK dubbed him one of the nation’s “captains of the airwaves.” He is also the creator of AMERICA I AM: The African American Imprint museum exhibition. Smiley has received numerous honorary doctorate degrees, including one from his alma mater, Indiana University.
About Smiley & West from Public Radio International (PRI)
The weekly program from PRI, Smiley & West, is co-hosted by two of America’s most influential public intellectuals, noted broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Union Theological Seminary professor Cornel West. The one-hour program features thought-provoking, intelligent and stimulating conversations. Listen, engage and discuss on www.smileyandwest.com or follow them on Twitter at @tavissmiley and @cornelwest.