Tavis Smiley on CNN: 'Racism, Poverty and Militarism' Behind Ferguson Shooting

PBS's Tavis Smiley shamelessly invoked Dr. Martin Luther King on Thursday's CNN Tonight, as he commented on the ongoing controversy surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown: "It underscores that Martin [Luther] King was right about what he called the 'triple threat' almost 50 years ago....He said what's threatening our very democracy is what he called the triple threat of racism, poverty, and militarism. What we saw in Ferguson was racism, poverty and militarism." [MP3 audio available here; video below]

Smiley added that this apparent "triple threat" is a "burden that all of us in this country bear, and we've got to get serious about that if we want to save our very democracy." Moments earlier, anchor Don Lemon broached the subject of the incident from Ferguson, Missouri, and quoted music producer/singer Pharrell Williams's take on the issue. He continued with the subject of a new video from the time of the shooting:

DON LEMON: I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about Ferguson. I asked Pharrell [Williams], and he said, 'This is going to have repercussions. It's not over.' Right? He said, 'This is going to have repercussions for years to come.'

There's some new video out there that...supposedly is a bombshell...and it shows two white construction workers or contractors – moments after the shooting...supposedly saying, 'He had his hands up' – what have you. This is being deemed, as I said, something that is ground-breaking. But there were witnesses who were before, who were black, and it appears that more credence – from some people – is being put on the white contractors than on the black eyewitnesses.

The PBS host responded with his "underscores that Martin King was right about what he called the 'triple threat'" reply, but before he could continue, Lemon interrupted by asking, "Do you agree...that more credence is being put?" Smiley confirmed the CNN anchor's contention:

SMILEY: Oh, we've known for years. We say in our community – you know the old adage – tell everybody. We say it all the time in black America: too many believe that the white man's ice is colder. That's just another way of saying that if it's (sic) white, he gets a lot more respect; he gets a lot more props; he gets a lot more – you know, if it's white. So, that's an old story inside of black America.

The guest then completed his thought about "what we saw in Ferguson was racism, poverty and militrism," before Lemon moved onto the subject of Smiley's upcoming appearance on the Dancing With the Stars program.

A month earlier, on the August 11, 2014 edition of CNN Newsroom, Lemon expressed sympathy for the rioters and looters during the immediate aftermath of the Brown shooting:

LEMON: ...When we're talking about the rioting, yeah, it's terrible about the rioting...I hate when people riot and loot, and it happened in Katrina. But when people are put in dire situations, you don't know how they are going to react. I'm not saying it's right. I personally urge people to be peaceful and calm....but I understand....There should never be rioting, but it happens when people are frustrated.

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.