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The long ascent of Rev. Al Sharpton

The Rev. Al Sharpton has gotten a lot of ink lately. There he was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal last month. And on the front page of the Washington Post on Saturday. Both pieces marveled at how the portly preacher in jogging suits who exploded onto the scene during the Tawana Brawley controversy in 1987 (later found to be a hoax) is now a slimmed-down habitue' of the White House. As if he were a latter-day Athena who burst from the head of Zeus fully armed and ready for battle. Would that were so.

Slowly, methodically, yet persistently, Sharpton has worked hard for the access he has today. The Post and The Journal stories miss several key events that have burnished the Harlem preacher's image and bolstered his standing in the eyes of the public and politicians alike.

Sharpton ran for the U.S. Senate three times. In 1992, he came in third out of four candidates with 14.5 percent. Not a big deal until you know that the person who came in fourth was Liz Holtzman, a highly-regarded former member of Congress who was the sitting New York City Comptroller. In 1994, Sharpton had the gumption to challenge the legendary Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He lost. But he got 26 percent of the vote.

Sharpton's electoral holy-smokes moment came in the run for the Democratic Party nomination for New York City mayor in 1997. He pulled in 32 percent of the vote and almost forced a run-off election with Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, who got 40 percent, the minimum vote to avoid one. In keeping with his habit of running for offices he knows he won't win, Sharpton went national by going for the 2004 Democratic Party nomination for president. He didn't win a single primary. He only got 8 percent in New York. But his wit and anthropologically liberal stances at the debates helped cast him in a different, more serious light.

And then there were the racial conflagrations that at once burnished his image as a racial ambulance chaser while also casting attention on racial wrongs that could not stand. "Driving While Black" became part of the national discourse in 1998 after New Jersey State Troopers fired on a van of four black teenagers driving to a basketball tryout in North Carolina. And when unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo was cut down in a hail of 41 bullets from undercover officers in a street crime unit of the New York Police Department in 1999, Sharpton led a campaign of high-profile arrests to protest the killing.

To be sure, Sharpton has made big mistakes. The 1995 fire at Freddy's Fashion Mart is one. His incendiary "white interloper" comment at a protest he led in front of the Harlem store was cited as contributing to the animus that led an unstable man to set fire to the 125th Street establishment. But his original sin is the Tawana Brawley imbroglio. It is a weight on his ability to achieve the unadulterated adulation he craves for his efforts in civil rights and social justice.

Still, the Freddy's fire was an episode that could serve as the end of Sharpton as a shoot-from-the-lip community activist and the start of Sharpton as a power player. As we're seeing today -- and as The Post and The Journal have noted -- the Harlem preacher is as comfortable protesting outside the tent as he is working closely with those inside it to win whatever battles he's fighting. After following and reporting on his career for the last 17 years, it has been remarkable to observe the transformation.

By Jonathan Capehart  | April 19, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Comments

Sadly, this once-upon-a-time thoughtful columnist has been brainwashed by MSNBC and is now a card-carrying shill for the POTUS and his leftist congressional henchmen.

Sharpton remains, and always will remain, irrelevant to most of us who remember the Tawana Brawley outrage and Sharpton's many grotesqueries thereafter.

He is an insult.

And one hopes that you will rethink your increasingly partisan me-too positions right quick.

Posted by: jayjay9 | April 19, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the relatives of the people who died at the Freddie's Fashion Mart conflagration or the relatives of Yankel Rosenbaum (who was stabbed in another Sharpton incited riot) think the good reverend has ascended. Clearly he is the same loud mouthed fraud that he always was, the Duke Lacrosse hoax and Jena 6 hoax prove that.

Posted by: pgp62 | April 19, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

It is pretty sad that Al Sharpton is seen by many as a credible politician.

Posted by: trumeau | April 19, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Sharpton has always been, as Capehart rightly points out, a "racial ambulance chaser". He always plays the victim card, the race card and any other card that places the blame for any of the ills of the black community squarely on the shoulders of whites.

Capehart's attempt to rehabilitate this self-serving opportunist says much about Capehart himself.

Posted by: spamsux1 | April 19, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

He is still a race-baiting miscreant.

Posted by: ACTIONBIAS | April 19, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

It's amazing to me how the likes of Sharpton can hoodwink the black community and become the darling of the mainstream media, all-the-while the folks that play by the rules get the shaft.

Posted by: JAH3 | April 19, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Al Sharpton is referred to here as everywhere as "The Rev. , , , " Can anyone tell me what school of divinity conferred this honorific, and, if he has ever been the pastor of a church.
That aside, there is no reason that a president whose "spiritual mentor" was Rev. Jeremiah Wright should feel at all uncomfortable with Al Sharpton, especially since Democratic politicians (including the present Secretary of State) have pandered to this shameless demagogue for years. His promotion of the Tawana Brawley hoax, let alone the Freddie's Fashion Mart incident should have placed him forever beyond the pale of respectable politics. Sadly, for Democratic politicians, nothing is beyond the pale.

Posted by: JamesCurrin | April 19, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Keep drinkin' that Kool-Aid Capehart as you're well on your why to making the transition from a once somewhat credible journalist to being just another worthless peon, toiling in the ranks for the Odumbo socialist agenda along side bottom feeding dirtbags like Sharpton......

Posted by: franklinone | April 19, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

If I were an African-American I'd be embarrassed and humiliated by men like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson representing my race just as I am by men like George W Bush being representative of mine. None of these men represent the best interest of all the American people and none possess the intelligence or education to advise or run the White House wisely.

Posted by: jabsemp | April 19, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

for jamescurrin:

fr wikipedia:

>...Religion
Sharpton was licensed and ordained a Pentecostal minister by Bishop F.D. Washington at the age of nine[19] or ten.[20] After Bishop Washington's death in the late 1980s, Sharpton became a Baptist. He was re-baptized as a member of the Bethany Baptist Church in 1994 by the Reverend William Jones[21] and became a Baptist minister....<

Posted by: Alex511 | April 19, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Based on his involvement in the Duke Lacrosse team fiasco from a few years back, I would argue how much real transformation has taken place.

Only a fool makes the same mistake twice....

Posted by: boyzoid | April 19, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Sharpton owes his rehabilitation to Rudy Guiliani. If it wasn't for Il Duce's callous and racist defense of white police officers who gunned down innocent blacks, Sharpton would still in political Siberia.

The best one was when he claimed Patrick Dorismond (whom the NYPD shot for just saying NO to drugs--literally!) was no alter boy--when he was--literally--at the same Catholic school that Il Duce attended!!

Guiliani/Shaprton 2012!
Because birds of a feather flock together!

Posted by: Garak | April 19, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

sharpton was in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood when the riots occurred and forced the police out...
the screams from the residents when the thugs turned on them because there was no one to protect them, sharpton forced them out and the suffering there was unbelieveable...
they begged the police to come back and they did...
but no thanks to sharpton who left leaving the residents in the hands of the thugs...

Posted by: DwightCollins | April 19, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

This article sucks and Sharpton is still irrelevant; his visiblity is only being enhanced now to be used when Obama seeks re-election.

They're both irrelevant now if you asked me.

Posted by: SBL2003 | April 19, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Sharpton's admittedly nowhere near as inflammatory as he used to be, but until he actually apologizes to Steven Pagones for his slanderous charges against him in the Brawley case, if I were Obama I'd keep him at a Yao Ming arm's length. Nothing good can come from this association.

Posted by: andym108 | April 19, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Its interesting to see all these people telling blacks who THEY should believe in. Sharpton is thoughtful and aggressive in his advocacy on behalf of the downtrodden. He was right about Jena 6 because a fight doesn't amount to attempted murder. Sharpton didn't say those boys should get off, he said they didn't deserve to be charged as though they attempted to kill the white kid, which is correct.
Listen to his radio show and you will not find his language to be hateful. He does not blame "whitey" nor the government for all of blacks' problems and he DOES, contrary to what you all think, advocate self-help within the black community as the ultimate answer. He just doesn't shy away from the government's responsibility to provide an atmosphere where people can rely on self. Just this past weekend, he hosted a forum focused on ANSWERS (self help answers by the way) for ills facing blacks and other minorities. It was a great watch!
Sharpton is a leader who has reformed his mistake on Tawana Brawley. Stop judging him based on that.
Good job Mr. Capehart for having the courage to write about this. I'm sure you knew that the vitriol in response would be great!

Posted by: CoreyinFL | April 19, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Very good article on the Rev., Mr Capehart! I too do wish that he was perfect. I particularly enjoyed his confronting those white racist killers in New York when that young black man was killed crossing the road. The Rev went into that place in his warm ups and konked hair and gave better than he got. I have never seeen him at a loss for appropriate words...even on Fox. The maturation process about which you speak is taking place in a racially hostile environment in which Reverend Sharpton in has had to live. His non political activities also stand up to detailed examination far better than those of many elected representatives and clergy. Very good article.

Posted by: Draesop | April 19, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Sharpton has all the qualifications of an Obama confident - racially biased, extreme in his views, socialist-marxist, and above all, false and glib.

Posted by: pgr88 | April 19, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I have a problem with Sharpton calling himself a Rev. especially after he lied to the police, the public and cost taxpayers thousands of dollar and time with his lies. So many like him get credibility from the MSM like Fox, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, etc. I the likes of him would just go and lead quiet lives and quit screwing everyone.

Posted by: 45upnorth | April 19, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I blink, and two-bit race hustler is transfigured into a statesman.

I don't know America anymore.

Posted by: happyacres | April 19, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

This lifelong NY'er considers himself an agnostic when it comes to Rev. Al. However a few facts are in order.

Yankel Rosenbaum was stabbed long before Sharpton showed up at the scene. The stabbing occured after the rumor spread that the EMT ignored the injured family.

As far as Freddie's Fashion Mart goes. The protests went on for several weeks before the madman committed the barbaric act. Where was Rudy Guiliani and the administration in those weeks ensuing?

Posted by: MerrillFrank | April 19, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

The Tawana Brawley episode tells you all you need to know about Sharpton. Not that he made a mistake, but that he has never done anything to make amends for it.

Posted by: PhilThijou | April 19, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Rev. Sharpton is one of the few black leades who hasn't sold out and isn't afraid to confront the white power structure. I just wish we had more like him. The Tawana Brawley case was 23 years ago, people need to get over it.

Posted by: artbee2000 | April 19, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Sharpton is a charlatan, opportunist, fraud, liar and racist.

The majority of black people do NOT consider credible or a spokesperson for them and know that MSM (WaPo, Wall Street Journal, etc.) keeps propping him up because they know he will do something that they can jump on and criticize.

Posted by: rlj1 | April 19, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

As far as I'm concerned, the Tawana Brawley matter will always prevent Al Sharpton from having any kind of credibility or moral authority. The stench from that affair will never go away. I'm as big a liberal as the next guy, but my considered opinion is that Sharpton is a slimeball. End of story.

Posted by: nicekid | April 19, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Sharpton is nothing but a shakedown artist masquerading as a minister. He doesn't deserve the title Reverend.

Posted by: lbvanhoy | April 19, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

I believe that Sharpton is simply a creation of the media, and I don't understand the sudden cheerleading taking place. What's the real story?

Posted by: dorofacol | April 19, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Just curious, but how would Revenue Sharpton pronounce the word, "ascent?" He pronounces "ask" as "aks."

Posted by: Rodin | April 19, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Sharpton is a sludge-mouthed racist clown forever tied to the Tawana Brawley rape hoax.

Posted by: greg3 | April 19, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

"The Tawana Brawley episode tells you all you need to know about Sharpton. Not that he made a mistake, but that he has never done anything to make amends for it."
Posted by: PhilThijou | April 19, 2010 5:47 PM

This is true, and yet I can't quite figure out why he still hasn't apologized to Pagones. He's admitted that he was mistaken about the facts of the Brawley case, but it's almost as if he's saying that he'd be losing his manhood by a simple act of apology.

He defends his non-apology in a weird way: "I'll never apologize for believing Tawana Brawley." As if that's what he's being asked to apologize for.

He's come a long way since that case, but people at large are simply not going to "get over it" until he stands up like a man and admits that he slandered an innocent man (Pagones) and tried to ruin his reputation. You don't "get over" that sort of a thing by saying "that was a long time ago." You get over it by admitting you were played for a chump, and that you respectfully hope that Mr. Pagones can forgive you for what you did.

At that point, people just might begin to take you seriously, as opposed to merely using you as window dressing because you can command a large radio audience. Any fool with a mike and a baritone can do that---the airwaves are full of them.

Posted by: andym108 | April 19, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Read the story about the Jewish man who accidentally hit a black boy with his car in New York, Killing him, it was a mistake he was not drunk. And he was devastated by what happened. It could happen to anyone. But when Al Sharpton got involved it turned bad really fast . He caused a riot and called for the burning down of a Jewish store who had nothing to do with the accident. When it was over ,there was seven dead trapped in the store and burned to death. This is the real Al Sharpton that you don't hear about. They shut off the fire protection and blocked the doors hows that for a great man???? He is a dirt bag and the people don't see him for who he really is.

Posted by: annieandpauldonovan | April 19, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Wiping by bottom with Al Sharpton's moustache is an insult to my behind. TAWANA BRAWLEY!!!

Posted by: carlbatey | April 19, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

You gotta be kidding me. This guy is a racist jerk that deserves as much attention as the Rev. jj. I have absolutely no respect for these two trouble makers. TFL, Ken

Posted by: kentigereyes | April 19, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse


al sharpton has never met a racially tinged controversy he didn't love. and he doesn't believe in finding out the facts of a case, he just shoots his mouth off and then never apologizes when the facts prove him wrong. the man was, is, and always will be a racist.

he hasn't evolved one degree from his tawana brawley days.

Posted by: potomacfever00 | April 19, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Mr Capehart, in my opinion, has done the intelligent readers of the Washington Post a grave dis-service by writing this article praising the "new Al Sharpton".

He never was man enough to apologize for the people whom he hurt by supporting Tawana Brawley's allegations.

He's slandered more than a handful of people, causing them pain and loss of their reputations.

He's been responsible for causing riots and preaching hate, and blaming the "white guy" for everything.

How does a man like this deserve our respect?

Posted by: barrysal | April 19, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

I think of Ted Kennedy's words at his brother Bobby's funeral when I think of Rev. Sharpton..."he saw wrong and tried to right it"... Can ANYONE say that what happened to Amadou Diallo was RIGHT or Shawn Bell or the students in that van??? Yes, he was wrong in being gullible about the Tawana Brawley mess, but who among YOU is perfect???

Posted by: slamming | April 19, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Capehart, you lie by omission. You talk about the racist accusations by Sharpton in the Tawana Brawley case, which was dismissed. You fail to disclose that Sharpton was sued by one of the targets of Sharpton's racial slander, a young lawyer named Pagonis. Mr. Pagonis won the slander suit to the tune of a fine of about $250,000 which Sharpton had to get a supporter to pay so he wouldn't go to jail. All you need to do is check the NY Court System trial in Poughkeepsie, NY. So the next time you defend a racist, be sure and include his entire racial record.

Posted by: RonKH | April 20, 2010 12:24 AM | Report abuse

This racist piece of horse manure, along with Reverends Wright, Pfhlager and Louis Farrkham represent what is the worst of America. Funny how they are all best friends with Obama.... " Its our turn nowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww " - Michelle Obama. Be careful what you wish for and VOTE FOR.

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | April 20, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

Indeed. It's AMAZING what you can 'Accomplish' when you're a BLACK DEMOCRAT. Why, just look at CHARLIE RANGEL. Does anyone believe that a WHITE REPUBLICAN could go YEARS without filing his Taxes, and NOT report MILLIONS in INCOME and STILL BE IN CONGRESS. Can you imagine a WHITE REPIBLICAN getting away with having 4 RENT STABILIZED APARTMENTS (You know, the ones for POOR PEOPLE) AND a MILLION DOLLARS in his Checking Account?
But I digress, We're here today, to marvel at how well the REVERAND AL SHARPTON has done for himself.
It seems like only yesterday that he was parading TAWANA BRAWLEY on to the IDIOT - Phil Donahue Show. "She was RAPED. And the Suffolk County D.A. - Stevan Pagones - was pleasuring himself over the photographs." Has Al ever PAID Mr. Pagones for the MONEY that the COURT AWARDED HIM in the LIBEL and SLANDER CASE? Mr. Capehart? I'm talking to you, sweetheart.
Somebody remind me. Was that BEFORE or AFTER our Fat Friend - AL SHARPTON - was running through the CROWN HEIGHTS STREETS with his fellow "KILL THE JEWS" Pogromers? And was The Crown Heights Affair, BEFORE or AFTER Tubby was INCITING the MURDERS of 7 People, and the ARSON of FREDDIES CLOTHING EMPORIUM? It's so hard to keep up.
I think it's nice that these two STREET THUG, BAG MEN - AL and BARRY - can come together. It seems like only yesterday, that Obama was stapling RIOT NOTICES on to Telephone Poles, and AL was RIOTING.
They're like YOU and a Glory Hole, Ms. Capehart. Perfect together.

Posted by: GoomyGommy | April 20, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

All this little man has in his little deck of cards is the race card. Plays it where ever and when ever he can. It's old and boring. Kind of what he's like now. Please go away and take Rev. Wright and JJ with you.

Posted by: elcigaro1 | April 20, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

attention on deck:
this is America.... if you are given the gift of "gab!!" enough said... sharpton and jackson, sounds like a carnival act..... these two guys are good at what they do.. only they know why they do what they are doing.. they remind me of groundhogs, they only surface after the eagle flies by..... the gift, speaking, is something that can be a good or a bad thing.... look at the crowd...they remind me of goldfish at a dock..... the fish are waiting for the bread....
these two have been taking advantage of the poor and disadvantaged for years.... they bribe, hold hostage, use the race card too much, and remind me of the police, they show up after the crime or incident.....
in order to be successful today you have to tell the truth, be honest and up front... because, the giant is awake.....
now that all the b.s. has been uncovered, the fan is going to hit the sh - - !! the tea parties are just the tip of the iceberg !
there are lots of pot stirrers on the scene... all size pots and ladles.....what are you going to be served ??? good luck...
think for yourself, do your homework, research, be more proactive..... don't allow the politicians to do your thinking, look where that has taken you and me .....

california is bankrupt, do you know why ? do you care ? the debt/deficit !!!!
did you know the chinese own the "EMPIRE STATE BUILDING!" and most of our bonds !!

p.s. the time has come to put your priorities in order.... be honest with yourself. ask this question, am i happy, secure, safe in today's environment ?? thx

Posted by: ecesareel | April 20, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Sharpton is a bigoted racial exploiter of the worst type. It is pathetic that liberals see fit to pay attention to this most vile of human beings.
He is the black equivalent of the early George Wallace.

Posted by: scvaughan | April 20, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Sharpton never apologized for what he said & did during the Tawana Brawley escapade so as far as I am concerned, he is just another racist.

The fact that he has access to Obama is not remarkable.

Posted by: mlemac | April 20, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

to scvaughan:

How can Al Sharpton be the equivalent of an "early George Wallace"? Early George Wallace had the power and authority to enforce a power structure that made it neither legal nor illegal to lynch blacks.Early George Wallace supported a little something called -- SEGREGATION. Early George Wallace was a white man in a white world whom white people idolized! Early George Wallace had POWER -- something that Black people have never really had. George Wallace had the government behind him. Those of you who think that Obama and Al Sharpton are friends are ignorant. Blacks DON'T all know each other. And whatever Obama's views about Sharpton, he knows that a "friendship" is not to his advantage. Obama's educated, remember? Probably more intellectually endowed than you. So get real! Early George Wallace and Al Sharpton might have/may fit the definition of a jerk, but you are somewhat ignorant if you do not understand that America's power structure has always been an impenetrable white wall. People like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson trouble racist white people because they are afraid that if black people become powerful, they will treat them the same way they've always treated everyone else. So, people like Al Sharpton will never (and has never) had the power that Early George Wallace did. Wallace was committed to oppressing an entire race -- Al Sharpton, on the other hand, is trying to help liberate that same race -- however bumbling his attempts may be. Black folks wouldn't need him if more white folks stepped up to the plate and took a good swing at the "peculiar institution." Just look at James Cameron's sick fantasy, Avatar, as proof of how little progress SOME white people have made. In the movie, he has the one black person he even bothered to hire, make a racist slur against the Navi. Yep, when we can go and slaughter indigenous people, we'll be powerful too!

Posted by: yikes2 | April 20, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Capehart,
Thank you for the outstanding coverage! Also, Thank you Mr. Sharpton for all you do. I appreciate your hard work, tenacity, care, concern and last, your labor of love to which has touched many.

May God continue to bless you!

Sincerely,
Aprayingsistah

Posted by: Aprayingsistah | April 20, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

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