“This is not an anti-Obama poverty tour and I’m tired of hearing that quite frankly,” broadcaster Tavis Smiley told ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper today on his way into DC Central Kitchen in the nation’s capitol.
Smiley and Princeton Prof. Cornel West have embarked on a lengthy multi-city Poverty Tour around the country to highlight the problem low income Americans. Fourty million people live at or below the poverty line in the United States.
Despite their efforts, many have been critical of the tour saying that it is a veiled attempt to criticize President Obama.
Comedian and radio host Steve Harvey, who typically does not delve into political matters on his show, commented on the West/Tavis Poverty Tour this week. Harvey also read a letter from a listener on the air yesterday to listen click here. The letter, from “Mrs. Jones for Charleston” read in part, that the two “did a lot of poverty pimping” on the tour “selling books.”
Though Harvey does not speak out as much on politics compared to other celebrities, many of the sentiments he expressed have been heard by others regarding the Poverty Tour.
Smiley has called for a White House conference on poverty. Harvey was critical. “Once again Mr. Smiley, you are demanding [to be] the center [of] attention with the President of the United States,” Harvey pointed out. “Who in the hell has two or three days for [Smiley]?”
“Poverty existed before January 2009 — where was your poverty bus when Clinton was President or Reagan or the Bush Administration when we were being driven to this new level of poverty,” Harvey added. Many feel that House Republicans, who have consistently opposed President Obama and are attempting to dismantle the social safety net, should be criticized on social policy, not President Obama.
Outside DC Central Kitchen, Smiley said Americans, “want the President to focus on jobs, they want to know he’s going to fight for them. They are tired of seeing the Republicans clean his clock on every piece of legislation.”
“They are tired of compromising his way out of the foxhole rather than fighting his way out of the foxhole,” Smiley added. “The new poor are the former middle class. It breaks your heart to hear, to see former middle class people talking about losing their jobs.”
“There is a moral and spiritual as well as political and economic dimension in this. People are hungry and thirst for people who will talk candidly about these issues,” Prof. Cornel West said. “When you hit that moral and spiritual dimension you’re talking more than Democrat and Republican parties we’re talking something deep within the American people,” Prof West said.
Before making the stop at DC Central Kitchen, the two made a stop at the Progressive National Baptist Convention.