National Press Club

Holder 'served honorably,' Smiley says during Club Book Rap

September 29, 2014 | By Heather Forsgren Weaver | HeatherForsgrenWeaver@gmail.com

PBS broadcaster Tavis Smiley addressed Attorney General Eric Holder's time in office during a Sept. 26 National Press Club Book Rap about Smiley's latest work, "Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Year."

PBS broadcaster Tavis Smiley addressed Attorney General Eric Holder's time in office during a Sept. 26 National Press Club Book Rap about Smiley's latest work, "Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Year."

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

PBS Broadcaster Tavis Smiley believes Attorney General Eric Holder "served honorably" but that the Obama administration's search for leaks was unacceptable.

"I parted ways with the Obama administration digging into the lives and work of journalists," Smiley said during a National Press Club Book Rap Sept. 25. "I think that crossed the line, unacceptable, untenable, unthinkable, intolerable."

Club President Myron Belkind asked Smiley, who was appearing at the Club promoting his new book, "Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Final Year," for his comment on the announcement earlier that day that Holder plans to resign.

Smiley has an on-going public feud with the Obama administration because he does not believe that the nation's first African-American president has done enough to stem racism and poverty, and that Obama has become a war president.

"I have said nothing holding this president accountable anywhere near what you are going to read in this book that King said to [former] President [Lyndon] Johnson," Smiley said.

His book is an in-depth examination of the last year of King's life from a speech he gave against the Vietnam war on April 4, 1967, at the Riverside Church in New York City, to his assassination exactly one year later in Memphis.

The last year of King's life is not what many Americans remember. In fact, most Americans believe King gave only one speech in his life – the "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, Smiley said.

"That is the narrative that we spin. That he gave one speech, the speech didn't have but one line in it and after he gave the speech he got shot and killed," Smiley said. "King gives that speech in[19]63, while he dies much too young at the age of 39, he does live five more years so he evolves over that five-year period."

Smiley indicted the press, specifically the Washington Post, the New York Times and Time Magazine for walking away from King following the Riverside Church speech.

"When I say the media turned on Dr. King, I mean the so-called liberal media," Smiley said. "When you read in this book what the New York Times said about Dr. King the next day, you aren't going to believe it. When you read what the liberal Washington Post said about King the next day, you are not going to believe it. When you read what Time Magazine said about him that week, you are not going to believe it. It is an absolute stain on their reputations."

The last year of King's life was the darkest "when everything and everybody" turned against him, Smiley said. "We can't juxtapose the deification in death with the demonization in life."

Smiley was introduced by Eleanor Herman, a member of the Club's Book & Author Committee and a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.