The news reports at the time, in the late 1980s, were horrific. Tawana Brawley, a 15-year-old African-American girl from New York State, was said to have been abducted and repeatedly raped by six white men. She was found with “KKK” written across her chest, a racial epithet on her stomach and her hair smeared with feces. She was so traumatized, according to reports, that at the hospital she answered yes-or-no questions by blinking her eyes. Making the crime even more vile, if that were possible, she and her lawyers later claimed that two of the rapists were law enforcement officials.
Enter a relatively unknown (at the time) African-American activist named Reverend Al Sharpton. Rushing to get in touch with young Tawana, Reverend Al became her mentor, spokesman, and leader of the mass protests demanding justice for Brawley, the victim of an apparent white racist attack. In the process, Sharpton accused the police officer — who Sharpton said had actually attacked her — along with the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case, Steven Pagones. “The evidence,” Sharpton said, proved that “an assistant district attorney and a state trooper did this.” Sharpton led mass picket lines at New York state offices, which I recall at times included the always gullible folk singer Pete Seeger.
We all know the outcome, although with this new short documentary, a new generation may be hearing about it for the first time. The Times notes: “After seven months, 6,000 pages of testimony and 180 witnesses, a grand jury found Ms. Brawley’s story to be a lie. Neither the police officer nor the district attorney accused by Ms. Brawley and Mr. Sharpton had been involved in any way, the report concluded.” It was too late for Officer Harry Crist Jr., who committed suicide because of the false accusations made against him, or for Assistant DA Pagones, whose career was ruined and whose reputation was smeared.
Writing today at The Daily Beast, Stuart Stevens calls it a “shocking reminder of the toxic mix racial exploitation and personal ambition can produce.” It should be, he writes, “required viewing for the NBC News executives who are heavily invested in rehabilitating a key culprit of this loathsome episode: the Rev. Al Sharpton.” Stevens is correct, and let me put it more boldly: It is time for MSNBC and its parent, NBC News, to fire Rev. Al Sharpton.
There was some justice for the family of the dead police officer and for the unjustly accused Pagones. The two lawyers working for Brawley, Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason — both radical New York leftists — had their law licenses revoked. But as we know, despite a long record of outrageous, racially charged actions carried out by Sharpton, which Stevens summarizes for us, the activist’s career began to skyrocket.
Sharpton became a media celebrity, a kingmaker of Democratic Party politics, and the man all candidates had to grovel before in order to get approval because he had succeeded in anointing himself as the self-proclaimed leader of America’s black community. Yet Sharpton continued to reveal his antisemitism, continued to make false charges on other issues, and, as Stevens puts it so well, he “spent decades vomiting hate, leaving innocent victims in his wake.” And as PJ Media readers well know, he has continued his role in the protests he organized at the time of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Once again, Sharpton sought to inflame racial hatred and to reach judgment before all the facts were known, in essence repeating the kind of actions he took decades ago in the Brawley episode.
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Sharpton is not alone. But one thing stands out. Instead of suffering retribution for his continuing sins, he has been singularly rewarded. His greatest reward was NBC’s fairly recent appointment of Sharpton as anchor of his own program on MSNBC. He is also a regular commentator on other programs, including the network’s highly rated Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough. Although he continues to run and to be announced as leader of his own activist group, Reverend Al Sharpton alone is permitted to function as both a black activist leader and purportedly objective news host at the same time. Imagine the scandal if Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly took leadership of a conservative activist group while hosting their own TV talk programs. We know that all hell would break loose the very first day. Sharpton is being touted, as Stevens puts it, as a “credible source of information.”
That persona, as a result of this new 15 minute documentary, is now up to being challenged. In the documentary, when asked to comment about his role in the Brawley episode, Sharpton is clearly anything but apologetic. As Wayne Barrett, the former political writer at the old Village Voice with his friend the late Jack Newfield, says in the program, Sharpton still thinks he did nothing wrong. “You would think that if he sold you such a terrible bill of goods for such a giant story that dominated the news for such a long time, that you would not show up at his next news conference with a camera,” Barrett says. Yet the media always come when Sharpton makes a call, as they did in Florida after the Martin shooting.
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One other point must be made about Sharpton’s comments made for the documentary. First, he says, incredulously, that “something happened,” as he tries to imply that perhaps Brawley was right in her original charges. Second, he goes on to argue — and you must watch him say this in the video — that even if you think he is wrong, he acted because of his commitment “to social justice”!
Sharpton does not seem to realize it, but he is saying that “the end justifies the means,” the old apologia all leftist radicals use to explain away their most heinous acts. The holy grail of seeking “social justice” excuses anything, even false accusations that led to the suicide of one person and the end of a career for another. Beware of those who invoke social justice as the explanation for their actions. It is always the smokescreen to hide those who seek to exploit and inflame the discontents of the poor in order to advance their own careers.
Yes, MSNBC is an upfront leftist news organization. Joe Scarborough, who regularly is balanced by the usual assortment of leftists and liberals, is the rare exception — the token conservative hired because he once was in Congress and has ties to the Hill and many friends to call upon for interviews and as guests. The network last year took the step of firing Pat Buchanan, whose upfront paleoconservative views offended the network honchos, and whose latest book at the time was accused of racism.
Nothing Buchanan wrote or did, however, compared one iota with the offenses of Al Sharpton, which continue unabated to this day. It is time that NBC do what they did to Buchanan. It is time to fire Sharpton, for he has made clear in his unwarranted defense of his actions in the Brawley case that he has learned nothing, and that he is still a purveyor of inflammatory racial charges that undermine any remaining credibility needed for the position of a news network anchor.
So, take your pens to hand, and write NBC News demanding that Al Sharpton be fired. Even an avowed leftist network has to be called to account when it crosses the line and tries to give a classic demagogue a position on its news staff.