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PBS’s Tavis Smiley says Fox’s monster hit show Empire may not be showing the best images of Black people on television. In fact, he suggests it may actually be showing only the worst.

In a clip from his upcoming interview on Larry King’s PoliticKING , the television host said he’s overheard conversations in barber shops and other community haunts about the problems with cultural representations among the characters, played by stars like Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.

He says:

“There is a debate in the Black community that hasn’t really surfaced, hasn’t really boiled to the top yet, but I hear it in barber shops and other places, [about] whether the problem with Empire is that it advances the worst of every pathology that Black people have – crime and drug dealing and this and that and the other. A lof ot people are looking for positive characters that may come out in the second season. But the first season everybody is ahhh!”

The interview airs April 7. Check out the video clip below:

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Tavis Smiley Suggests ‘Empire’ Shows ‘The Worst’ Images Of Black People [WATCH] was originally published on

70 thoughts on “Tavis Smiley Suggests ‘Empire’ Shows ‘The Worst’ Images Of Black People [WATCH]

  1. specialt757 on said:

    hmmm so what I get from reading the comments is that Tavis and Charles Barkley are cut from the same cloth. Make black folks look bad while grinin’ and cheesin’ the white man. Got it now.

  2. Joy2 on said:

    OMG!!! I can’t stop laughing. Just saw Tavis, and Lee Daniels on ET. Daniels’ response to Tavis dissin’ Empire was “Bye Felecia” LOL LOL ROTF Lee looks good. It appears he’s lost some LBs

    • Joy2 on said:

      Tavis since you are an upstanding citizen, perfect, family values type of guy….why aren’t you married with kids? I don’t know….I’m just asking.

      • After what Tavis wrote about his Mom, I am not surprised he is not married. Flawless people such as him never marry. Alternatively, if he were to marry, I doubt the person would be Black, as he seems to be such ashamed of Black people.

      • Oh and speaking of “family values,” how dare he treat the woman who gave him life with such disrespect.
        Where I come from, we were never discourteous towards our elders especially our parents.

  3. Laurie Edwards on said:

    Tavis I love you. You are an intelligent black man, but sometimes you show your ignorance by making comments such as these. Empire is the black Sopranos, Terrence Howard’s character and I did say character reminds me of JR of Dallas. I enjoyed Dallas, the Sopranos and many other TV fantasies. It take me away, just for an hour, away from the shootings, death by policemen and the various wars going on in the world. Come on Tavis you take yourself too seriously. Next you will hate on blackish.

  4. So it doesn’t show the best of blacks! It shows exactly what its supposed to show! Its not a nicey nicey show! I think Smiley knows this but if you wanted to attack him and I think some do, you will take his words totally out of context to start a fight! He is not against this program! You want nicely? Watch Blackish and leave Empire alone!!!

  5. Rochelle Herring on said:

    Tavis reminds me of Bill Cosby. He use to talk bad about the black young men all the time. It’s almost like they hate that they are black. Well, you know what’s happening to Bill with his rapist ass. The white man hates Bill now. So he’s trying to go to his black side for support. Get a life Tavis and love who you are!

    • Rochelle,
      I agree! I think people such as Tavis Smiley HATE being Black! I mean with a passion!
      He has NOTHING positive to say about Black people.
      It is just so sad. 😦

  6. Virginia on said:

    Here’s the translation of EVERYTHING Tavis Smiley AND Cornel West says these days:

    “Buy my book, white people.”

    • Joy2 on said:

      Virginia: And good luck on that one….”Buy my book” bc unfortunately these days not that many people read a book from cover to cover. It’s widely reported that only 5% to 6% of society reads books anymore.

  7. Viper on said:

    It’s a fictional tv show, its not that serious. Anyone who think this shows depicts black people are a few fries short of a happy meal. Ms Smiley, take a seat.

  8. Joy2 on said:

    @EBB: LMAO at the “talking so fast.” As for jealousy it’s crossed my mind several times that Tavis may be jealous of Don Lemon bc Don is comfortable with himself, and Don isn’t caught up in the religious fader that (sometimes) doesn’t allow us to be who we really are.


    • Joy2 on said:

      @RJ: Whhhhhaaaaat the H ru talking about?!? Some peeps always have to bring “the white man” into the equation.

    • Joy2 on said:

      @RJ: Just my opinion…..but I always think that people with comments like yours are the ones that are being controlled by the white man. Most people like that spend a lot of their time worrying about what the “man” thinks. Generally speaking….Personally I couldn’t give a Rat’s A what the man thinks!! To each his own…..U do U, and I’ll do me.

  10. Rosco P Coaltrain on said:

    Yep it surely depicts the new black family……Let’s see
    1. Momma served time in jail for drugs or whatever
    2. Daddy set her up to be there while getting rich on what she started
    3. Children, instead of loving each other they are competing against each other
    4. Drugs, Lies, Deceit, Murder, Homosexuality, Scamming, Flamming

    Heck the only thing the show is missing is a Black Happily Married Couple…….RIGHT?
    Oh….my fault, You can’t make a hit TV show now days about black(s) or black families without having all the above.

    To all of you who say the show is great, I’m willing to bet you think there’s nothing wrong with Mary Jane sleeping with different men every show to project what young single black women do on a daily basis either huh?

    DIVISION of FAMILY is all the show is about. It’s telling our young men and women that you can’t be successful now days without destroying family values.

    • Joy2 on said:

      @Rosco: Yeah right…..bc people (including young peeps) think a TV show defines “Family Values!!” NOT!! Family values, and values in general should be taught my parents, teachers, and mentors (who have earned the right to set examples) MOST people don’t watch a TV show, and say wow….that’s the way life is on all levels. And, if they do think that way….then their way of thinking was WARPED to begin with

      • RENO2AC on said:

        Joy, you said it best. It’s entertainment, folks. It is not meant to define nor categorize “black” folks as a whole. It’s a TV show for goodness sake!

    • @Rosco, if empire shows the world the loss of black family values, then it should also apply to white family values. We can go all the way back to white tv shows; such as, Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest, just to name a few.

    • Mr. Coaltrain,
      I like Empire because it is entertaining. Likewise, I like the show because I get to see more people that look like me. I am not easily entertained by Blacks hurting other Blacks but am entertained by the acting and good writing. (It is funny sometimes and sometimes it is sad, but certainly entertaining.)
      The show is not factual but based on some comments I have heard from family members that are in the music industry, it depicts the REALITY of a cutthroat business and sometimes that is what Empire reveals.
      Empire is not about “family values” but a show for entertainment purposes only. For shows that depict family values, I look for shows such as The Andy Griffith Show and Good Times. Notwithstanding, Good Times could be disheartening (to some) as it failed to show how one could make it out of the “hood.” (No one wants to watch poor people ALL the time.)
      Some Blacks hated watching All In The Family, but my family could have EASILY been the Black Edith and Archie Bunker. Even Sanford &Son and All In The Family were not necessarily about family values but again, it was for entertainment purposes.

      Mr. Coaltrain, sadly you are wrong: Although I like Empire, Mary Jane is not my cup of tea.

      You said that Empire is all about “DIVISION of FAMILY”…”telling our young men and women that you can’t be successful now days without destroying family values”. However, sometimes a success for one family member can lead to jealousy for another member of the family, which could and have demolish and hurt the family.

      Again, Empire is for entertainment purposes. Some may like it and some may not.
      As for Tavis, the only thing I can constructively say is “Bye Felicia.”

  11. Sammy on said:

    I don’t like Tavis, I watch the show, I agree with him, I don’t no of a family that act like that I look at it as a stripped show like Atlanta House Wife’s. It’s show a bad image of Blacks.

  12. Brandy Cann on said:

    I like to know what is or has been Tavis Smiley or for that matter Cornell West’s agenda for black folks. They seem to always posture themselves above the message of what is being said or portrayed by black folk. What is or has been their desired script for black folks? What has each of these educated black men done to improve the cause of black folks? They are so quick to speak out loud about black folks to white audiences. How are TS or CW any better? Its only to themselves. See, if your bold enough to speak out about a problem, you should be just as bold to help solve a problem. Do not just be ready to throw shade about what you care to see less of. Do something more to change the culture of it, or say something more thought provoking to assist in the culture of change. The so called audiences or lens viewing black folks, needs to let TS & CW know they’re the very same lenses which views them as well. Stop what you have been doing, putting more stock in yourselves, man! As if your both above the fray. Start reaching out & help bring, pull, & push forward another. Then maybe you both will like what you see staring back at you, Because I have gathered from TS & CW’s rhetoric they do not like themselves very much and have a great disdain for any black folks that constantly reminds them of who the really are, black men with an education. Man, they really did not get smarter, just further from their own truth. So, I gathered black shows, movies, & black news just really gets under their skin. I still hold out HOPE for you brothers and all those who think and see life through a filmed glass. WAKE UP!!

    • Joy2 on said:

      @Brandy: I agree that it appears Tavis, and Cornell have both become “further from their own truth.” My BIGGER issue with both of them is that I have never heard them give a concrete plan of what should be done (besides dependency on government….visa vi…what the President should do for black people). I think (but I’m not sure) that Tavis has a mentoring program in LA; but beyond that I’ve never seen any concrete suggestions/solutions put into place by either of them. For the most part they both just TALK TALK TALK

    • I agree, TS & CW seem to have either a really strong hard on for Black people or serious superiority complex issues. They never seem to have anything good or positive to say, and if you disagree with them…you’re all kind of sell outs and traitors of the “race”. It is really tiring and old Tavis and Cornell. Keep on, hear. You’re going to find yourselves in a field, preaching and philosophizing to the trees.

    • Brandy,
      This was WELL stated:
      “See, if you’re bold enough to speak out about a problem, you should be just as bold to help solve a problem. Do not just be ready to throw shade about what you care to see less of. Do something more to change the culture of it, or say something more thought provoking to assist in the culture of change.”

  13. Joy2 on said:

    Tavis, and the guys at the barbershop have the right to their opinion just like everyone else. Duuuuh!!All black people don’t think alike on ALL subjects. In my opinion Tavis has become BORING as H (not bc of his opinion but bc he has become irrelevant). People with common sense know that Empire nor any othertv show, or movie represents everyone in an ethnic group. To think so is ludicrous. Wonder if his comments have anything to do with his new book coming out…….marketing tactic perhaps??

    • Virginia on said:

      ALL of Tavis and West’s comments have to do with their BOOKS. Remember back when they started their “poverty tour”, I turned to my husband and said “They’ll have a book on poverty coming out soon”. Sure enough just as the “tour” was in progress they announced the book. Couldn’t have been 6 months. Takes longer than that to write a book. And, what happen to POVERTY after that?

  14. Susan Moore on said:

    Tavis has a point! Why is that predominately black films and/or shows portray us as reformed drug dealers, hookers and thieves? Our popular comedies are slap-stick and buffoon-laced. Tavis is dismissed as crazy and a hater because he refuses to endorse what is given to us as NORMAL! A lot of us are so brain-washed…we except what “they” say defines us as a culture. When one of us disagrees, we are dismissed from the flock. WAKE UP!

    • That’s right it’s just like that new TV show, “the book of black folk” whatever. Start out showing how Blacks came North and became prostitutes for the British solders. Which is bull. I don’t know what part of the North they’re talking about. In New England Whites didn’t see Blacks until a slave ship crashed there, the ship “Amistad” was part of our Black history display in the 1970’s.

    • I disagree! I do not think it has anything to do with how Black people are portrayed in a cutthroat business. I believe that many of us just entertained by Howard and Henton. (Personally, I am glad they are making money.) I think many Blacks appreciate the idea that we are dominating the screen.
      I believe that the majority of us are smart enough to KNOW that not all of us are “reformed drug dealers, hookers and thieves.” We have members of our own family to PROVE that is NOT true.
      It seems as though people such as Tavis are TRULY concerned about what non-Blacks think. It is SO sad that people such as him spend so much (TOO MUCH) of their time worried AND concerned about what “they” think.
      Tavis was once seen as leader but if not everyone followed him, then he deemed him or her as unessential. He once had the leadership but his failure to help, encourage and support other strong Blacks hurt him. Since then, he has not done anything remarkable. I know he used to run a food program but so have many others (myself included) but we do not need/receive the accolades and/or fame.
      People such as Tavis should do just as poster Brandy stated: Be bold enough to speak out about a problem and then do something to help fix it.

      As I said, the majority of us are smart enough to know that not all of us Blacks are “reformed drug dealers, hookers and thieves.”
      We have members of our own family to PROVE that is NOT true.

    • Vernell Frazier on said:

      I agree Travis needs to sit down at one time I followed him. But at sometime he changed to the uppity know it all he is today

  15. Tammy Johnson on said:

    Tavis Smiley, I get so tired of you. It seems like you are just soo negative toward Black People, I don’t understand you. You are always complaining about something that…. Man it must be HELL to be you. Negative, Negative, Negative…. Man it’s just a television show… GET A LIFE!!!

  16. komjj14 on said:

    It takes one to know one …. TS is a 100% pure and bonafide EMBARASSMENT to African Americans everywhere. I wish that he would just take a seat somewhere and shut up! How long before he is hired by FoxNews?

  17. Jzzyj1 on said:

    Why is he talking to Larry King??? Why isn’t this a topic on his non-Black, “but I Luv Black people” television program? SMH!

    • Joy2 on said:

      @Jzzy: Don’t worry bc I doubt if very many people watch Tavis’, or Larry King’s(new) show. I used to watch Tavis, and King’s CNN show all the time. Now I don’t watch either. For the most part Tavis’ show has become boring!!

  18. msyellarose on said:

    Seriously Tavis? Apparently he has not seen garbage like “Bring It”, that Keyshia Cole show,, “R&B Divas” , or any of those Springer / Maury type shows.

  19. Tavis , you are a HATER to the tenth degree ! I get so sick of your negative opinions on your own people . It’s entertainment with beautiful black people instead of these reality shows ! You are way way way off on this one and you are a boring black man that does not represent what we are really about ! Go get some swag and shut the hell up !

  20. I could not agree more! Let me say that again-I could not agree more. And Tyler Perry is getting rich
    off the non-sense. I viewed my last episode of the show “If loving you is wrong I dont wantta be right”.
    I CAN GUARANTEE you won’t see shows that have Black Policemen talking to their white partner like I
    saw last night. They [those who controll the airways] love to show movies with the down trodden black
    or shows with black people in chains being called the N word ect. Movies like Madea and all that.
    No wonder young people think there’s no hope. And falling for the hype is the only way to advance in life
    in this world.

    Tavis Smiley IS RIGHT!

    The show Empire may be entertaining at first glance-but the actual theme of the show seems very simular to
    a music producer [who is now in jail]-operation. Look what’s happened SINCE the drug dealing days-GREED-MURDER-SHHHHHHH who’s fooling who?

    Wonder if we’ll ever see a movie about John Johnson and how he rose, or The first brother to attend the Military Academy. Or the movie ‘strictly business’ again.

    No-but Driving miss daisy is on. Oh and the color purple is on. Tavis is RIGHT!

    • Joy2 on said:

      @Mofo: To be clear you have the right to your opinion (just like everyone else); but you come across as very angry, and negative. As for movies…what about The Pursuit of Happiness, Mandela, The Great Debaters, Daddy’s Little Girl, Glory, Good Deeds, The Preachers Wife…..Just to name a few POSITIVE MOVIES

      • Joy, this is what your list of positive movies could mean to people such as negative Tavis and his followers:

        Who cares that The Pursuit of Happiness was a true story? It sucked because it did not happen to a White man.
        Who cares that Mandela was a true story about the struggles of a tender and affectionate man. He was still a prisoner!
        The Great Debaters cannot be true because there are not enough smart Black people to challenge a prestige college. Only I am that smart.
        Daddy’s Little Girl? Was that the one with Edris Elba? If so, he should have stayed with his unfaithful wife. It should not matter if she was mean as a junkyard dog.
        Glory was not factual, as only a devious writer could make up the story about Blacks volunteering to be a part of the Civil War. During that time? Get real!
        Good Deeds? Puleese! There is no such thing (yet a movie) depicting a rich Black man helping a near homeless working mother.
        As far as The Preachers Wife, who wants to watch a tale about an angel coming to the aide of a preacher’s wife? Do you not know that angels are not real?

      • Virginia on said:

        Or 12 Years a Slave, 42, Belle, Selma, I saw Glory the other night, and Antwone Fisher, the Tuskegee Airmen, and that movie with Cuba Gooding, Jr. about the first black navy diver was on HBO recently. If you’re only looking for Bad Stuff, that’s what you’re going to find.

      • Joy2 on said:

        @special: Ditto!! Tavis has become so NOT relevant. And, not because of his opinion….but just bc he is not relevant. It happens to the best of them. You’re en vogue……and years pass, and suddenly you’re no longer en vogue.

  21. Tavis Smiley is just jealous, and seeking attention by making such comments. Tavis Smiley is just as ignorant and stereotypical as this country is. He knows very well, that “Empire” does “not” represent “the whole black culture.”. And stop talking so fast as if your mouth is on fire with “hot sauce in it!”

  22. Tavis is way off as usual. He never have anything positive say knowmatter what the situation. Jealously of the success of other black men seems to be his issue.


  24. specialt757 on said:

    I’m so hurt, I was a huge Tavis Smiley fan before the election of the POTUS. I just can’t understand his disdain for our culture now, especially since he seemed at one time to be so “pro black”. Yes there was drug dealing on Empire (in the flash backs) but that was previous to the new life the Lyons built. Dallas, Dynasty, Revenge and other white tv shows have worst things going on. And like Melinda said, Tavis would have those folks on his show talking about how great it is. Yes he needs to kill all this noise and take a seat!

  25. redbone1954 on said:

    Who is dealing drugs on Empire??? Maybe I missed something! And also @ Tub Man you are so right how relevant is Tavis? He needs to go take several seats

    • The man show airs on PBS at what 1-2 am..time slot.. (snooze fest ) so of course he has to weigh in on a show that is the hottest ticket around, he didn’t seem to say anything about Power or the have and the have not’s, or the numerous reality shows where the stars do not seem to have a clue about reality!!! Wake up Tyler number 1. Empire Its a T.V show, 2. weather you want to believe it or not people have built businesses with illegal money and they were not all black.

  26. Tub Man on said:

    TAVIS WHO? How relevant is he now? If there aren’t any black shows there’s complaining. All the people I’ve encountered LOVE IT! Good cast and story we’re watching. Why doesn’t he create a show? He sounds jealous!

  27. Melinda Johnson on said:

    Tavis,Tavis, Tavis I think that you keep your jobs by always being the negative..always the nay sayer..people of other races can portray these type of charter and you would not miss a show you would have them on your show..stop… just stop.

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