Is The Kitchen Too Hot for Tavis Smiley?

Smiley Leaves Radio Show Admist Public Criticism

Tavis Smiley ‘s relationship with the Tom Joyner Morning Show will officially end at the end of June, Smiley said in a statement to the press. Smiley currently provides political commentary and has been a staple on the show for close to 12 years.

His departure comes amidst controversy about his harsh commentary regarding black presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama . Joyner theorized on air that Smiley is leaving the show because he is unable to take the heat from listeners regarding his “hate” for Obama.

“He can’t take the heat he’s taking over this whole Barack Obama thing,” Joyner said on the show after announcing Smiley’s resignation. “People are really upset with him. He’s always busting Barack Obama’s chops. They call. They e-mail. They joke. They threaten. You know Tavis like I do. He needs to feel loved.”

In Smiley’s official statement he said he was moving on from the show to focus on other business ventures. “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,” he said.

Obama has been the focus of much of Smiley’s commentary of late, with very little being positive. Smiley has criticized Obama for not attending Smiley’s annual State of the Black Union discussion, although Michelle Obama offered to attend in her husband’s absence.

Smiley rejected Mrs. Obama’s offer saying that it would be inappropriate for her to speak in her husband’s place.

Smiley has also condemned Sen. Obama for his response to the controversy regarding his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright , and his failure to attend the festivities observing the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ‘s assassination in Memphis, Tenn.

Many African Americans have been just as critical of Smiley as he has been of Obama. Laura S. Washington , a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and professor at the Ida B. Wells University at DePaul University , wrote an April 7 column titled Slams on Obama show Smiley is out of Touch .

In it, Washington said she was taken aback by the recent news of Smiley’s departure from the Tom Joyner Morning Show. “The story evolved in an unusual way,” she said. “I was surprised he did it so abruptly.”

Washington said that Smiley’s sudden and seemingly emotional flight from the Tom Joyner Morning Show is not uncharacteristic of him.

“It reminded me of how he left NPR. There seems to be a pattern of Tavis Smiley taking the low road in how he handles professional relationships,” she said. “There seems to be a lot of drama and personal issues when it involves Tavis and I’m troubled by that.”

Washington doesn’t believe Smiley’s official reasons for leaving the show, choosing rather to trust Joyner’s theory on Smiley’s resignation. “He’s unhappy with how he’s being portrayed,” she said. “Tom Joyner wouldn’t have said those things if he didn’t believe them.”

Smiley is perfectly within his rights to criticize anyone he wants, even the most successful black presidential candidate in history, Washington said. But how he criticizes is another story.

“The way he’s doing it comes off as petulant and self-serving. That’s what many black Americans are reacting to,” she said. “It’s ok to agree to disagree, but the way we disagree is important.”