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Rev. Al Sharpton

Ronald Radosh

Imagine if David Duke were now a Republican Party kingmaker, and Mitt Romney and other presumptive candidates had to go to his organization’s events, seek his endorsement, and stand by his side—just as he was presiding over rallies seeking mainstream support for George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s shooter. Yes, everyone knew Duke was once a Ku Klux Klan leader and had only slightly cleaned up his racist act, but now he came on as a non-partisan fighter for justice on behalf of aggrieved white males, and when he spoke, wore pinstripe suits, especially when presiding over his own TV talk show.

If that scenario existed, every news anchor and reporter, and every single Democrat and liberal, would blast the Republicans non-stop. They would castigate any Republican candidate who dared appear at David Duke’s side. They would use Duke’s past—rightfully so—as an example of very bad judgment on the part of any Republican who gave him even a moment’s attention.

Well, I think you know where this is leading. At the present moment, leading Democrats flock to gain the approval of the racist demagogue and race-hustler Al Sharpton, who, just four years ago, found that the Obama campaign put him at more than arm’s length in order to make it appear that candidate Obama was mainstream and wasn’t part of the divisive racial politics of the past as practiced by Sharpton and company.

It seems 2012 is quite a different matter. Dana Milbank explained Sharpton’s new power in Sunday’s Washington Post:

Everybody wants to be on Sharpton’s good side these days. No fewer than five Cabinet officers and a senior White House official went to this year’s convention [of Sharpton’s National Action Network] to kiss his ring. President Obama spoke at last year’s conference and has sought Sharpton’s advice on policy. Sharpton has a show on MSNBC five nights a week, and he doles out airtime to a procession of politicians and journalists (including me).

How things change in a short four years. From pariah to the equivalent of what the pope is for Catholics. Speaking at the convention of the reverend’s National Action Network (sponsored, as Sharpton pointedly stressed, by Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, all Rupert Murdoch enterprises), Attorney General Eric Holder praised Sharpton for his “tireless efforts to speak out for the voiceless, to stand up for the powerless.”

All but forgotten is Sharpton’s past. He honed his technique of rabble-rousing 25 years ago, when he led the fight on behalf of Tawana Brawley, a black teen who falsely said she had been kidnapped and raped by a gang of white men. Sharpton succeeded in ruining the career of District Attorney Steven Pagones, whom he not only accused of racism but of being one of the perpetrators of the abduction and rape. Later, in 1995, he inflamed black residents of Harlem when a Jewish merchant sought to expand his store. Sharpton called the owner a “ white interloper,” and one inflamed Harlem resident burned down the property, killing eight employees.

In the Crown Heights riots in 1991, Sharpton engaged in inflammatory antisemitic rhetoric, stating: “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” In 1994, referring to gays, he said, “White folks was [sic] in caves while we was building empires…. We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.” (Now, of course, he says he is opposed to homophobia.) And referring to Mitt Romney and his Mormon religion, Sharpton said, only five years ago, “as for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don’t worry about that; that’s a temporary situation.”

This is the man who Milbank writes is “arguably the most prominent civil rights figure in the country…[and] a kingmaker in Democratic politics.” If Milbank is right about Sharpton — and the evidence indicates that he is — it reflects just how much the old-fashioned, centrist liberalism of the past no longer exists, and just how far to the extreme left the Democratic Party has fallen.

As for Sharpton’s role in the Trayvon Martin case, he assumes, as he did a quarter of a century ago when the Tawana Brawley case took place, that Martin was killed by Zimmerman because the man who murdered young Martin was a white racist, motivated by racist hate. Mark Hemingway points out Sharpton’s role in the Weekly Standard:

Despite scant evidence that race was a factor in Martin’s death—George Zimmerman, the man who shot Martin while on a neighborhood watch patrol, is Hispanic and claims the killing was self-defense—Sharpton came to Florida to tape on location, thundering that Martin was a victim of racial injustice. Not surprisingly, Sharpton promulgated at least one glaring untruth, claiming Martin was in the morgue for three days before his parents were informed he’d been killed. “How do you leave this kid in the room like he’s a worthless piece of meat?” he railed. However, this is contradicted by the fact Martin’s parents were discussing their son’s killing on a local news broadcast the next day.

The facts don’t count with Reverend Al. They don’t have to, when a writer like Milbank has told us he has “mellowed,” and even Rupert Murdoch’s enterprises feel the need to sponsor his activism and sing his praises. With Sharpton manning the barricades and continuing to play the race card in the Trayvon Martin shooting, one has to ask: can George Zimmerman be expected to get a fair hearing by the court or a fair trial in such an atmosphere?

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