Tavis Smiley became more than a little defensive when he was recently referred to as a Barack Obama critic.
“Your facts are wrong because I have never leveled a personal critique against the president ever. I’ve never said anything personal about Barack Obama,” Tavis told TheGrio.com.
“I detest when people suggest that I’m an Obama critic. I’m a member of the media and my job like yours—if you’re doing it well—is to hold the president accountable. That doesn’t make me a critic,” he said.
Tavis has been criticized by many for launching his Poverty Tour, with colleague Dr. Cornel West, during Barack Obama’s presidency. His detractors question why Tavis wasn’t so outspoken during the presidencies of those who preceded Obama.
However, Tavis said his comments are objective, and he’s not personally attacking Obama.
“My job is to hold the president accountable, so I’m not a critic of the president,” he said.
When asked about comments he’s made about not being invited to the White House, Tavis said when he first brought it up, he did so in response to a direct question.
“I was on C-Span, and I was asked whether or not I’d interviewed the president. I was asked specifically if I’d been to the White House. I didn’t level a complaint. I didn’t raise the issue,” said Tavis, who has been friends with Obama for 15 years.
However, he didn’t deny that he’d like an invitation to the White House.
“Everybody wants to be invited to the White House, particularly when Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly and others are getting interviews and invites to the White House. It does say something about the White House, but that’s not my issue,” Tavis explained, noting that he wasn’t eager to bring up the fact that he’d not been invited.
“For three years, before being asked that question, I was fully aware that I had not been to the White House—first president in my professional career to not invite me for anything—I was fully aware of that. I was fully aware, obviously, that I had not sat for an interview with the president since he’d been elected, and I never said a word about it publicly because I don’t lose any sleep over it,” said Tavis, who doesn’t mind going down in history as someone who insisted on holding Obama accountable.
“I don’t want to be regarded in history as having been silent during the era of a Black president when Black people were catching more hell than anybody else,” Tavis said. “And somehow we’re not supposed to say something, and if you do say something, you hatin’ on the president? Black folk have got to mature,” he said.