PBS’s Tavis Smiley isn’t happy with the way in which President Obama has handled his relationship with black journalists — and African Americans in general. On Sunday, Smiley took to his radio show with guest Cornell West to lament an apparently rude speech Obama’s chief of staff Valerie Jarrett delivered to the National Association of Black Journalists Convention last month.
During the speech in question, Jarrett talked about Obama’s “genuine love for black people.” Smiley scoffed at this, considering that the president didn’t attend the journalism conference and sent Jarrett instead (Joe Biden appeared there as well).
“What’s fascinating about that to me, a few things: number one, that I’ve never heard the president say that,” Smiley said. “So, to send a surrogate out to tell people that he really loves you is fascinating for me if the president himself doesn’t tell you that I love you. You know that’s like me sending you to tell my momma that I love her.”
Smiley was particularly frustrated that Obama’s apparent love for African Americans was spouted during a time in which “new census numbers show that the wealth inequality gap between white and black folk has doubled during the president’s term in office.” With “black wealth” continuing to “evaporate,” the radio host wondered just how deep and genuine Obama’s love is.
Here’s more from Smiley’s radio discussion of the speech:
…Some folk in the audience really wanted to hear her [Jarrett] just talk about issues and talk about the campaign and talk about things that really matter. But she got up and just read down this laundry list of accomplishments and there were folk in the audience who like okay, we got it.
But the presentation didn’t work because it was just a resuscitation [sic] of talking points as if she felt she needed to convince this audience with these talking points that he really had done something that she had to convince them and so here comes the phrase of genuine love. It just struck some in the audience I’m told that she was really really you know working hard to try to sell this story to an audience of black journalists? What do you make of that?
West had somewhat of a different take, as he didn’t seem as bothered by the proclamation from the chief of staff. Listen to Smiley talk about Obama’s purported love — or lack thereof — for African Americans, below: