Harry Belafonte, the iconic African-American entertainer and activist, says President Barack Obama has failed because he’s lacked both "moral vision" and "moral courage."
Belafonte, 84, who has long been a prominent figure in the American civil rights movement, says that Obama’s slogan during his first run for the presidency, "Yes We Can," was "politically clever" but that Obama never really made it clear as to yes we can do what. Thus, Belafonte says, "So we were all disappointed."
He asks, "What has happened to moral truth?" as well as "moral courage." Politics without moral purpose, Belafonte says, ultimately ends up as tyranny.
It was quite a broadside attack on the president made by a man of unquestionable integrity. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Belafonte’s global popularity and his commitment to our cause is a key ingredient to the global struggle for freedom and a powerful tactical weapon in the civil rights movement here in America. We are blessed by his courage and moral integrity."
Belafonte made his remarks about Obama on Thursday afternoon, July 28, 2011, at the Television Critics Association tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. He was there publicizing an upcoming documentary about his life, "Sing Your Song," which will debut on HBO on Oct. 17. A companion album and memoir also will be released in October.
In a clip from the documentary shown at the TCA session, there is a scene of Belafonte talking to then-President John F. Kennedy. In the film Belafonte says he was surprised by the president’s lack of knowledge about the civil rights movement at the time.
Belafonte is a true TV pioneer, having been a regular on one of the first national TV shows featuring African-American talent on TV, a music-variety program on CBS titled "Sugar Hill Times" that ran for a few months in the fall of 1949. "It may have been an unintentional oversight on the part of the CBS press department at the time, but every press release for the show spelled Harry Belafonte’s name with two ‘l’s (Harry Bellafonte)," note Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh in "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows."
Belafonte won an Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series for "Tonight with Belafonte," which appeared on CBS’s "The Revlon Revue" during the 1959-1960 TV season. It was the first time an African-American performer won an Emmy.