On Inauguration Day, television personality Tavis Smiley and his friend former Princeton professor Cornel West lashed out at President Barack Obama for using a Bible belonging to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for his swearing in. (Never mind that the King family gave Obama the Bible, and attended the Inaugural to witness its use.) That same day, Smiley’s onetime friend and host of the show that made Smiley a household name among many black Americans, slammed Smiley’s comments, saying his former protege is “fascinated with his own legacy.”
Noting that Smiley said in his latest attack on Obama, this time on CBS Sunday Morning, that “Obama is a politician, and a pretty good one, but King was a prophet. And while I can appreciate the president’s fascination with King’s legacy of unarmed truth and unconditional love, I’m feeling some sort of way about King being used symbolically for public pomp and circumstance, but disregarded substantively when it comes to public policy,” Joyner had this response:
… I believe that Tavis is the one fascinated with Dr. King’s legacy, but more importantly Tavis is fascinated with his own legacy, and that’s not good. He wants more than anything to be remembered the way Dr. King was, and to some how make that kind of mark on the world.
Dr. King wasn’t concerned about how he would be remembered, he was concerned with doing good and doing right. In the end, that made him great. Tavis has done a lot of good things but his obsession with becoming great is destroying him. The whole issue with the inscription on the King Memorial illustrates the differences between Tavis and Dr. King. Days before he was killed, believing that death was imminent, Dr. King dealt with it publicly in his Drum Major speech.
Dr. King knew good things would be said about him in death and he was humbled at the idea of it. Tavis is afraid of what will be said about him and it’s driving him crazy. …
Smiley became a regular commentator on Joyner’s top-rated, syndicated morning radio show in 1996, but he and Joyner parted ways in 2008 in the wake of scathing criticism of Barack Obama — who Joyner actively supported — by Smiley, including during his daily commentaries. Joyner has since become a fierce critic of Smiley and West, who have taken every opportunity to attack the Obama administration and the president himself, often in very personal terms.
Much of Smiley’s enmity toward Obama is said to stem from the then-Senator rebuffing an invitation to attend Smiley’s annual “State of the Black Union” panel, which was held on the same day Obama announced his presidential campaign in Illinois. Tavis has denied that, and said he is simply attempting to hold the nation’s first black president accountable.
Smiley previously hosted “BET Tonight,” until the cable network pulled the plug on the show in 2001.