A war of words between the Rev. Al Sharpton, Black civil rights advocate, and Black scholar Cornel West has revved up recently after West made comments criticizing President Obama.
In an MSNBC special news program, West, a Princeton University professor, claimed that Obama is no longer working in the best interests of African-Americans, but is instead protecting the interests of the financial sector.
“I worry about you, brother, because you can be easily manipulated by those in the White House who do have the interests of Wall Street oligarchs, who do have the interests of corporate plutocrats who you opposed,” West said to Sharpton. “But you end up being the public face and Barack Obama ends up being another Black mascot.”
Sharpton countered that West needed to put the same pressure on his friends in Congress who have not pushed hard for a jobs bill and that any criticism of Obama was “hogwash,” leading to a shouting match that ended the show.
TV and radio talk show host Tavis Smiley, a close friend and colleague of West, also offered harsh criticism of Obama.
“The president knows his base in Black America is shaky,” Smiley said on his radio show earlier this month. “You can’t play that history card more than one time.”
David Swerdlick, a political analyst and journalist, said that the criticism of Sharpton and Obama is unfair given the challenges the president had to face.
“After firing his top general in Afghanistan for insubordination, enduring the ‘Ground Zero mosque’ controversy, and dealing with the Gulf oil spill, Somali pirates and a banking collapse that was waiting in his inbox on Day 1 of the job, President Obama is running low on juice,” Swerdlick wrote.
The Obama administration, perhaps sensing frustration, has launched whitehouse.gov/africanamericans, part of a concerted effort to show what the White House is doing to address the needs of African Americans ahead of the 2012 presidential election.