Tavis Smiley Says Obama Leads From Behind on Race

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 21 2013 2:19 PM

Tavis Smiley Blasts Obama Speech: “You Can’t Lead From Behind” on Race

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

While President Obama has been widely praised by the media and Washington insiders for his deeply personal speech about Trayvon Martin Friday, Tavis Smiley said on NBC Sunday that it was too little, too late. It wasn’t the first time the PBS host blasted Obama for his speech. On Friday, Smiley took to Twitter to criticize the president’s “weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid” speech, noting it took Obama “almost a week to show up and express mild outrage.” On Sunday, Smiley doubled down on that criticism saying that “this town has been spinning a story that’s not altogether true.”

The media narrative now is that Obama walked to the podium for an unscripted address because he felt he needed to say something. But the truth is that “he was pushed to the podium,” Smiley said. “A week of protests outside the White House, pressure building on him inside the White House, pushed him to that podium.” Smiley noted he did“appreciate and applaud the fact that the president did finally show up.” But “the bottom line is, this is not Libya. This is America. On this issue, you cannot lead from behind. What’s lacking in this moment is moral leadership.”

Advertisement

Harvard professor Charles Ogletree disagreed with Smiley, saying that the President has “been talking about race and doing things for race for a long time, and the reality is that … he wasn't pushed to the podium, he walked to the podium.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.