Al Sharpton's Ugly History Of Opportunism and Bigotry

Al Sharpton's sorry career is one of shameless self-promotion at all costs.
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Al Sharpton's sorry career is one of shameless self-promotion at all costs.
Sharpton

"You can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you’ll just get yourself called Reverend." - Christopher Hitchens

The Reverend Al Sharpton, or "Rev" as he is endearingly called by his dupes, has spent the last few decades styling himself as a voice for the voiceless who's waging a tireless crusade against bigotry as the self-appointed spokesman for black America. In the now infamous Sony Pictures Entertainment hack, several emails were leaked showing an exchange with racial overtones between chairwoman Amy Pascal and a producer. Sharpton, in his erstwhile role as professional umbrage-taker, soon after announced,

"I was very offended by the emails that were hacked… We’ll determine there whether we are going to join calls for her resignation or whether she is really, seriously going to deal with the fact that Hollywood really reflects a lot of what was said in that conversation."

It wasn't long before Pascal took a 90 minute meeting with Sharpton, after which he declared that "the jury is still out" on whether he would call for Pascal's resignation. While some observers took this to mean Sharpton was waiting for the check to clear, such cynicism is well placed when it comes to The Rev, as a recent report in The New York Post has made abundantly clear. More on that in a moment.

Sharpton's return not only to relevance, but national prominence in 2014 was in many ways inexplicable, given his illustrious history of deceit, bigotry, delinquency, and grossly transparent self-aggrandizement at the expense of the very community for which he claims to speak. No longer considered a rabble-rousing fringe figure, Sharpton hosts his own show on MSNBC and has visited the Obama White House no fewer than 72 times.

Like many race-obsessed pundits -- liberal and conservative -- Sharpton has never allowed caution or facts to smother the flashpoint of the next great race war.

In 1987 in what proved to be his most infamous debacle, The Rev eagerly took up the cause of 15 year-old Tawana Brawley, who claimed six white men raped her and left her in a trash bag. Sharpton went on to name prosecutor Steven Pagones as one of the assailants. Eventually, the case went before a grand jury, where it fell completely apart and was found to be a hoax. Pagones, who was easily able to prove he had been nowhere near Brawley at the time of the alleged assault, successfully sued Sharpton for defamation in the amount $65,000. The Rev refused to pay and eventually the damages were paid by friends on his behalf. To this day, Sharpton has never apologized or acknowledged Brawley's story was false.

In 1991, Sharpton was once again front and center amid tragedy and racial tensions after a car being driven by a Jewish motorist in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn knocked down a stone pillar, pinning two black children underneath. One died and the other was badly injured. The driver was pulled from his vehicle and beaten by three or four black men. Sharpton spoke at the funeral and smeared Jews as "diamond merchants." Following the accident, a riot ensued in Crown Heights, during which a mob surrounded a 29 year-old Australian Jew and stabbed him to death. Sharpton also led a march at which anti-Semitic banners were carried, including one that read, "Hitler did not do the job."

In 1995, a black Pentecostal church in Harlem that owned retail space instructed a Jewish tenant -- the owner of Freddie's Fashion Mart -- to evict one of his black subtenants. For Sharpton, the villain was not the church, but the Jew. Sharpton told a gathering of those protesting the eviction, "I want to make it clear to the radio and audience and to you here that we will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business." Later, one of the protesters entered Freddie's Fashion Mart, shot several customers, and set the store on fire, killing seven employees.

In 2003, Sharpton sued the New York City Police Department over his 1991 stabbing during a march. Sharpton claimed that despite the police presence at the march, New York's finest had failed to protect him from his intoxicated assailant. Just as jury selection was about to commence, Sharpton settled with the city for a cool $200,000.

As much as The Rev envisions himself a great arbiter of what does and does not constitute bigotry, his own history of employing racial and homophobic slurs makes that idea downright farcical. In addition to decrying "diamond merchants" and "white interlopers," Sharpton doesn't care much for "faggots," "Chinamen," "homos," and certain "niggers" whose policies with which he disagrees.

When he isn't inserting himself into the latest high-profile national race crisis, Sharpton tries to keep a low profile when it comes to taxes, namely by not paying them. As The New York Timesreported in November, The Rev has some $4.5 million in state and federal liens against him and his businesses. Despite the fact that Sharpton's National Action Network calls itself "one of the leading civil rights organizations in the Nation," it turns out that neither can be bothered to pay their bills:

Mr. Sharpton and the National Action Network have repeatedly failed to pay travel agencies, hotels and landlords. He has leaned on the generosity of friends and sometimes even the organization, intermingling its finances with his own to cover his daughters’ private school tuition.

NAN isn't just a civil rights organization, but a vehicle for funneling money to fund Sharpton's personal expenses, which include the aforementioned private school tuition, as well as $181,000 associated with Sharpton's 2004 presidential bid, to go along with $70,000 NAN paid toward the defamation judgment against an attorney who had represented Tawana Brawley. With NAN owing $1.1 million in payroll taxes in 2009, Sharpton nonetheless collected an annual salary of $250,000 from the organization.

Despite its financial troubles, NAN is also a vehicle through which Sharpton has garnered great leverage and influence. According to a report this week in The New York Post,

For more than a decade, corporations have shelled out thousands of dollars in donations and consulting fees to Sharpton’s National Action Network. What they get in return is the reverend’s supposed sway in the black community or, more often, his silence.

Based on tax filings and a state inspector general's report, the Post determined that in 2008 a hedge fund called Plainfield Asset Management gave a $500,000 donation to a nonprofit, Education Reform Now. The money was then immediately funneled to NAN to pay the salary of its executive director, Charlie King. As it just so happened, King was also a lobbyist for Capital Play (now AEG) -- a company that Plainfield was heavily invested in, and one that was desperately attempting to secure a license to operate a racino in Queens. While Sharpton denies he did anything to try to secure the license for AEG, company executives think otherwise. According to the inspector general's report, one company employee wrote in an email, “Sharpton lobbied [then-Gov. David Paterson] hard over the weekend on our behalf,” and that they would need Sharpton to "piss on" a rival bidder.

In some cases, Sharpton's tactics resemble just plain old extortion. This excerpt is worth quoting at length:

NAN had repeatedly and without success asked GM for donations for six years beginning in August 2000, a GM spokesman told The Post. Then, in 2006, Sharpton threatened a boycott of GM over the planned closing of an African-American-owned dealership in The Bronx. He picketed outside GM’s Fifth Avenue headquarters. GM wrote checks to NAN for $5,000 in 2007 and another $5,000 in 2008.

Sharpton targeted American Honda in 2003 for not hiring enough African-Americans in management positions.

“We support those that support us,” Sharpton wrote to the company. “We cannot be silent while African-Americans spend hard-earned dollars with a company that does not hire, promote or do business with us in a statistically significant manner.”

Two months later, car company leaders met with Sharpton, and Honda began to sponsor NAN’s events. The protests stopped.

Sharpton landed a gig as a $25,000-a-year adviser to Pepsi after he threatened a consumer boycott of the soda company in 1998, saying its ads did not portray African-Americans. He held the position until 2007.

Whether or not Sharpton calls for Amy Pascal's resignation at Sony may very well hinge on whether she and her company are prepared to pony up whatever The Rev has deemed sufficient penance.

Call Sharpton a shakedown artist, call him a demagogue, but whatever you call him, he is not a selfless seeker of justice. He is a man with delusions of grandeur -- delusions that have now become reality thanks to repeated capitulations by people frightened to death of being called a racist by the biggest race hustler in America.

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