tavissmiley_fc.jpgDALLAS (AP) _ Tavis Smiley is leaving Tom Joyner's popular morning radio show after 12 years, and Joyner told listeners Friday he thought the political commentator's criticisms of presidential hopeful Barack Obama might be to blame.

But Smiley said in a news release issued later Friday: “Contrary to what has been suggested, I have decided to clear some things off my plate so that I can devote my time and attention to some exciting and empowering projects … this summer, this fall and beyond.''

Smiley, who has been on the syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show'' since 1996, said in the news release that he'll elaborate on his decision during his regular commentary on the Joyner show Tuesday morning. He said his commentaries will continue through June.

Joyner said he thinks Smiley is tired of getting flak for criticizing Obama.

“We're so emotional about this Barack Obama candidacy,'' Joyner said on his Dallas-based show. “If you don't say anything for Barack Obama, you're considered to be a hater.''

Smiley criticized Obama for not attending an annual “State of the Black Union'' symposium Smiley held in February. Sen. Hillary Clinton was the only presidential candidate who accepted Smiley's invitation.

“I'm catching hell,'' Smiley said in an earlier interview with BlackAmericaWeb.com.

Joyner urged listeners to show Smiley the love he needs via e-mails and calls.

“He loves black America and black America has been very critical of him,'' Joyner said of Smiley. “It hurts. It hurt me to hear black Americans criticize him.''

Smiley has written several books and hosts the PBS show “Tavis Smiley'' and Public Radio International's “The Tavis Smiley Show.'' The former Black Entertainment Television host is working on several projects, including a documentary, a bus tour and a book publishing company.