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PBS Radio Producer Explains Why Harry Belafonte's Anti-Obama Remarks Were Cut From Show


"It's not like it's a big secret."


Legendary singer Harry Belafonte hasn't been one to hold back his political opinions: He's attacked the Tea Party, then-GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain and in July even voiced his dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama, saying Obama lacked courage and vision.

Interviewed recently on the "Smiley & West" radio program -- co-hosted by PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley and Princeton University professor Cornel West -- Belafonte came down on Obama again, saying the president lacks a "moral compass."

But as Brian Maloney of the Radio Equalizer pointed out, Belafonte's comments about Obama, available in full on the "Smiley & West" website, appear to have been edited out when the program was broadcast to its public radio affiliates around the country.

First, listen to Belafonte's remarks about Obama [transcript follows]:

BELAFONTE: When I think of Barack Obama and I think about all that is at stake here, I’ve really long since left talking about how many terms he will be as a president. My question is what legacy will he leave having had the opportunity to serve under such hugely dramatic circumstances and boggled the mind and boggled people’s thinking and had such a huge impact on the universal state of things.

And how could he have had such a splendid opportunity to do more than most presidents would have ever been able to do and he let that opportunity slip away from him. And I am very cautious of the fact of those who thinks that he has some hidden agenda and that if only he could be given a second term for us to see the new light, new things will be revealed. A new efforts will be made to take us to a place other than where we have been and where we languish.

I just don’t trust that. I don’t think that a safe way, an accurate way to look at the scenario. I think if there was the kind of moral compass serving Barack Obama in the way we had all hoped, the moral force would have helped him make choices. The absence of that force in his equations, the absence of that barometer to guide him when he has to make these decision which are hugely complicated, especially from the political perspective. He should have come to the table with things that I think would have helped us in this moment of crisis.

Now, hear his remarks in the context of the entire interview, available on the Smiley & West website [relevant portion begins at the 24:10 mark]:

Finally, hear the version broadcast on the radio, courtesy of Radio Equalizer, skipping the above portion entirely:

Belafonte's comments about Obama are also missing from the official transcript posted on the show's site, even though the website features the full audio. In the original interview, Belafonte's remarks come between the two paragraphs shown below:

Smiley & West transcript

But Joe Zefran, the producer of "Smiley & West," said in a phone interview with The Blaze that the show was edited for time, not to try to cover up Belafonte's remarks.

There are always two versions of the show, he said: A broadcast version that goes out to affiliate stations that's limited to 59 minutes, and the longer, unedited version that is posted online and in podcast form.

"There was never an edit after the fact, that's how it went out last week," he said, calling it "standard for any interview that goes over time."

As for the show's transcript, it reflects the broadcast version of the show, not the unedited one, he said.

But why cut that segment specifically?

"It was the least interesting part to be honest," he said. "A lot of people have been saying that [about Obama], Fox News says that every night."

He added that Smiley -- who was booted as a speaker from an upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. event for making critical remarks about Obama -- has no input on what's cut from the broadcast version.

"I'm not thinking if I take it out of the broadcast that that isn't getting out of there," Zefran said of the edited remarks. "It's not like it's a big secret."

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