Hello, I watch the Tavis Smiley show on PBS and have a hard time understanding him, although I can get what most of his guests tell. Is this because of his Indiana state origin, and if so is this what Indiana accent looks like?
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I watched a few minutes and didn't find his accent hard to follow, but he did speak fast and mumble a bit at times.
I would describe Tavis Smiley's accent as slightly mid-western. The mid-western accent of AmE is characterized by several false vowel sounds. Nevertheless, it is easily comprehensible to all native speakers of AmE. If you find him hard to understand I suspect that you also have some trouble with the standard CNN accent. His is not very far from that.
I think he may, as his show is on BET, allow himself to use terms from AAVE, which makes people new to that dialect find it harder to understand.