Simply the worst

by Ted on September 10, 2003

Mark Kleiman has a timely reminder that Al Sharpton is a horrible person.

If you just manage to hang around for long enough in politics, you can achieve some kind of undeserved quasi-respectability. If Al Sharpton spent his time apologizing to his victims instead of demeaning the Presidential race, the world would be a better place.



Ophelia Benson 09.10.03 at 5:31 pm

Oh, man, tell me about it. If there’s anything that makes me want to put a fist through the radio or perhaps tear my own head off it’s hearing fellow-lefties talk about Al Sharpton as if he were a perfectly reasonable, decent, progressive figure like any other. And I hear it far too often. What the hell is that about? There are no other black radicals around, we have to take Sharpton seriously?! I don’t think so!


chuck 09.10.03 at 5:39 pm

I am by no means a Sharpton apologist. His anti-Semitism is a big problem and a good reason not to support his candidacy. Still to see him as “more despicable” than Tom Delay and Trent Lott considerably glosses the ways in which those two men have abused their powers to the benefit of a very small number of people. That being said, I’d like to see the media and the public take more seriously some black progressives who don’t share some of Sharpton’s flaws (and there are many out there).


fontana labs 09.10.03 at 5:46 pm

During the Pagones lawsuit, if I remember it right, Sharpton tried to play down reports of his wealth, in part by saying “I don’t own my suits; I just have access to them.” Awesome. Someone who can utter that sentence and look like he means it deserves a very, very special prize.


drapetomaniac 09.10.03 at 6:13 pm

the only thing that makes al sharpton look good is the racism and hypocrisy of the white people who despise him. if you really want to remind us that al is a horrible person, you can undertake….. oh, nathan newman said it better than i would (from )

Yes, Sharpton has attacked Jews, such as during the black-Jewish conflicts in Crown Heights, and his rhetoric was unpleasant: highlighting the Jewish “diamond merchants” importing gems from Apartheid South Africa was guaranteed to rub tensions raw. But white politicians use code words for black people every day– “welfare queens” et al — so are black politicians singularly barred for life from politics if they appeal to the baser instincts of their constituents in building their political clout?…

But there’s a more serious issue here. Yes, on Tawana Brawley, Sharpton pushed the issue long after all reasonable evidence should have made him concede that the girl had made the story up. But given the incredible racist history of police treatment of black victims of crime at the hands of whites, it’s not so incredible that he and many blacks distrusted the evidence that whites so easily accepted.

For an example of this, look at this National Review hit piece against Al Sharpton from 2000, rehearsing the usual sins of Tawana Brawley, Crown Heights, Freddy’s Food Mart, and, oh yeah, one more sin lately missing from the anti-Sharpton hit parade:

In the spring of 1989, the Central Park “wilding” occurred. That was the monstrous rape and beating of a young white woman, known to most of the world as “the jogger.” The hatred heaped on her by Sharpton and his claque is almost impossible to fathom, and wrenching to review. Sharpton insisted-against all evidence-that the attackers were innocent. They were, he said, modern Scottsboro Boys, trapped in “a fit of racial hysteria.”

But guess what, just a month or two ago, the City of New York prosecutors admitted the boys in question had been framed for the rape of the young woman. The five boys had served a combined 40 years in jail based on coerced confessions and, yes, racial hysteria. And yes, others like Newsday’s Les Payne think a comparison to the Scottsboro Boys is quite apt. The young kids in question were not good kids, who probably committed lesser crimes, but the fact remains that they, like countless of the millions of black men thrown into our jail system, were innocent of the crime for which they were convicted.

And Sharpton was right. And his critics were wrong.

So is every politician who gave into this anti-black hysteria and agreed with the theft of 40 years from the lives of these five youths barred from polite company and progressive political association? Or are those who participate in anti-black hysteria exempt from this rule, and the rule applies only to those who gave in to anti-Jewish hysteria at points in their lives?

The death of Gavin Cato was composed of two parts, first the reckless behavior of the driver who was driving 50 miles per hour in a 25-miler per hour residential area, then drove up on a sidewalk. Whether you want to call such action manslaughter or murder, both are legally homicide. And the community was outraged that the man was not even charged with a crime. See here.

But this situation went beyond that. A private Jewish ambulance arrived which, leaving the injured children behind, took care of the injured Jewish driver. Gavin Cato died from his injuries, partly in the minds of the community because he was not taken immediately to the hospital but had to wait for a later ambulance. See here.

So you combine reckless driving leading to death with leaving the victim behind in favor of taking care of the life of the perpetrator of the death, and I don’t think murder is uncalled for as a term. Does it rise to the level of “malignant heart” in purely legal terms– maybe, maybe not– but it sure has the reasonable sense of such.

The fact is that the driver, Yosef Lisef, committed a crime and was never charged with even a lesser crime. Yet the killers of Rosenblum were charged. Whether they should have had the same sentence is perfectly reasonable to debate, but the double standard is that one (the non-white one) went completely free. That is where the outrage of the black community justly comes from, even where its manifestation in riots may not itself be just.

And it is that systematic conviction of blacks for crimes they did not commit (see the wilding incident among many others), the murder of blacks at the hands of the police (Diallo), and the lack of enforcement against those who commit crimes against blacks (Lisef and many others) that makes many individual acts of “non-malice non-murder” become, in my mind, a social reality of murder by societal malice by the malignant heart that allows this to happen year after year.

Was Lisef guilty of murder? Maybe not. Is the society guilty of murder that devalues the life of a black child to the point where people know they can kill them with little concern? Absolutely.


Ophelia Benson 09.10.03 at 6:20 pm

Yes but it doesn’t follow from any of that that there is any reason to respect Al Sharpton. Not unless he were the only person on the planet talking about injustice, and he isn’t.


JRoth 09.10.03 at 6:38 pm

What’s the old line about how politicians and whores both get respectable in old age?

Sharpton’s just part of 21st Century America’s dedication to disproving F Scott Fitzgerald’s adage about second acts. Would anyone here really be shocked if OJ makes a semi-respectable comeback someday?

Hmm. Where did Sharpton come down on the whole OJ thing, anyway?


Brett Bellmore 09.10.03 at 9:14 pm

Strikes me that this isn’t so much a case of someone finally achieving pseudo-respectability, as a case of a party being depraved enough to not recognize when they’re relinquishing it. Of course, it’s kind of understandable; If the Democratic party ever stops getting a percentage of the black vote that makes Stalinist show elections look plausible, they’re history, so pandering even to the worst is a matter of raw survival…


Brian Weatherson 09.10.03 at 9:33 pm

If the Republican party ever stops getting a percentage of the Christian conservative vote that makes Stalinist show elections look plausible, they’re history, so pandering even to the worst is a matter of raw survival…


Ophelia Benson 09.10.03 at 11:23 pm

Not to mention the Republican Party’s percentage of the ‘I don’t want to pay taxes because I’m rich and greedy and selfish and convinced I would be just as rich if I lived on a desert island so I don’t owe anybody anything’ vote.


Kenneth G. Cavness 09.10.03 at 11:33 pm

Can’t we all just get along?


Matt Weiner 09.11.03 at 12:30 am

Brett, the best exemplar of politicians and whores getting respectable in old age is Strom Thurmond–despicable racist turned beloved old man, without ever recanting.

And the Republicans welcomed Thurmond with open arms. So, maybe (and I mean certainly) the reason the Democrats get >90% of the black vote isn’t that Democrats pander to black voters, but that Republicans pander to racists. Research the Southern strategy for more background.


drapetomaniac 09.11.03 at 12:46 am

Yes but it doesn’t follow from any of that that there is any reason to respect Al Sharpton.

huh? nathan newman gave one excellent reason to respect al sharpton. did you actually read it?

i’ll give you another: bensonhurst. i don’t have a zillionth the stamina sharpton has.

do you know how many families of victims of brutality are *grateful* to al sharpton?

if you’re saying that there is no reason to respect al sharpton as long as there is someone else who is a better person, i’d say there is no reason to respect you either, then.


Alex Knapp 09.11.03 at 2:15 am

I confess I don’t understand the mentality of “well, the Republicans pander to racists, too!” That doesn’t make what Sharpton does right or excusable.


DANEgerus 09.11.03 at 2:17 am

Sen. Byrd(D) led the ’64 filibuster againt the Civil Rights Act so bore me to tears with the anti(R) screed… a higher % of (R)’s voted FOR it then did the (D)’s…

The Central Park ‘wilding?’… again… if they didn’t want to get convicted they shouldn’t have sung rap songs bragging about the act the night of the crime on video. They volunteered details they couldn’t have known if they didn’t participate in the ‘GANG RAPE’. Should the police have let them go? ‘Wilding’ is the mispronounciation of ‘Wild Thing’ the rap song they sang. They got to walk because the retrial, at the end of their sentences, didn’t justify forcing them to complete the terms for the CRIMES THEY CONFESSED TO!

So bad things happen and Sharpton gets a pass for rabid anti-semitism. Oh I’m sorry… let’s give the Klan a pass because they got whiney about some slight… let’s embrace the Nazi’s because one Jew might be a banker… cause that excuses it all.

Sharpton is a criminal who get’s a pass spewing hate speech that is documented as getting people killed. He missed all the deadlines on filing for finances in this very campaign, doesn’t ever pay taxes on his psuedo income, has blood on his hands and you want to mention him in the same breath as Trent Lott?

Despise Trent Lott as I do for who he is and what he does but spare me the ‘I hate (R)’s self delusion’…


Brett Bellmore 09.11.03 at 2:23 am

Ah, Matt, as I recall, Strom did his dispicable stuff as a Democrat, and became a Republican as he *reformed*. ;) Oh, yeah, and he *DID* recant. In the only way that really matters: His deeds. Now, Sharpton, he’s never recanted anything, with words OR deeds.

Oh, and Brian? The Republican party DOESN’T get a percentage of any group’s vote remotely comparable to the 90% plus of the black vote the Democrats have come to rely on. Certainly not of Christians, though it was a nice try to make your claim a tautology, by inserting that “conservative” bit.

The nearest Republican parallel to Sharpton would have to be David Duke. Only, you’ll notice that the Republican party DID repudiate Duke, didn’t they? Pretty darn quickly, too. I suspect we’ll have to wait another few decades before the Democrats get sick of associating with Sharpton, though.


Walt Pohl 09.11.03 at 2:32 am

Alex: People are by and large responding to Brett’s attempt to smear the Democratic party, not defending Sharpton. Most Democrats I know despise Sharpton.

Drapetomaniac: Sharpton is not just a person with moral failings like you and me. He’s a genuinely bad person.


Brian Weatherson 09.11.03 at 4:06 am

I don’t see how it’s a tautology to say that 90% of Christian conservatives vote Republican. Unless it followed logically that one wasn’t conservative if one didn’t vote Republican. But of course that doesn’t follow at all. Some Pat Buchanan voters are conservatives, some Conservative Party voters are conservatvies, etc. (Back home people even say that deficit hawks are conservatives, and these days deficit hawks may even vote Democratic.)

Simple mathematics tells us there are as many groups that vote 90% Republican as there are ways of choosing n% of the Republican voters and n/9% or fewer of the Democratic voters. (Assuming here the Republican and Democratic voter sets are the same size to start with, which for current purposes is close enough to true.) That is an unimaginably huge number. To be sure, some of those groups will be artificial gerrymanders, but some of them will be the kind of groups of which the Republican party panders to. Of course one can do the same trick with the Democratic demographics. But for some reason it’s the black vote that’s the first such group to come up. Wonder why.


zizka 09.11.03 at 7:00 am

Somehow I expected this joint to attract a classier crowd.

Thurmond didn’t reform and then go join the Republican Party. He left the Democratic Party because the Democratic Party, previously segregatiuonist like Strom, reformed out from under him, and the Republicans accepted him unreformed. Same for Lott, Gramm, and dozens of others. The statement to which I am responding discredited the speaker.

Byrd cleaned up his act and stayed a Democrat. Likewise Gore Sr (not mentioned so far, but he always comes up). If they hadn’t, they would have gone Republican too.

The Democratic percentage of the black vote is about 91%. Doesn’t approach the Stalinist 99% mark. Another weak / dishonest argument. This percentage would be markedly higher if conservative Christians, small businessmen, etc., in the black community were not perfectly aware that the Republican Party now caters to the old white racists.

The way the Democratic Party did, in the old days when a lot of black Americans indeed WERE Republicans. Let’s live in the present, OK?


Brett Bellmore 09.11.03 at 10:58 am

I’m not smearing the Democratic party instead of Sharpton, I’m pointing out that the Democratic party is smearing ITSELF by associating with Sharpton.

The simple fact is that the Democratic contenders WILL enter a debate with Sharpton in it, and Republican candidates for the nomination would NOT attend a debate with Duke in it. Sharpton is a Democratic phenomenon, with no Republican parallel, and you really ought to give more serious thought to the implications of that. Think about why that’s the case, and what it implies about your party. To call the guy dirt would insult soil, and yet your hopefuls for the White house are willing to share a podium with him, and treat him with respect!

I’ll leave it at that, because my theories about why you tolerate that racial demogogue just get you too worked up to focus on the central point: You DO tolerate him! And isn’t it about time you stopped?


Jeffrey Kramer 09.11.03 at 4:15 pm

I would say the closest Republican parallel to Sharpton is probably Pat Robertson: at least equally corrupt and self-seeking, at least equally given to hysterical and inflammatory nonsense, won more votes in the presidential primaries than Sharpton will come close to getting, loads of nationally prominent Republicans willing if not happy to have their picture taken with him and listen (or pretend to listen) respectfully to his pronouncements.


Brett Bellmore 09.11.03 at 4:26 pm

That close parallel is pretty distant, unless you can point out a couple of occasions on which Robertson, (Who is indeed a piece of work, I’ll agree.) has personally drummed up lynch mobs, which went on to kill somebody.


Xhenxhefil 09.11.03 at 5:24 pm

The Central Park ‘wilding?’… again… if they didn’t want to get convicted they shouldn’t have sung rap songs bragging about the act the night of the crime on video.

What act?

They volunteered details they couldn’t have known if they didn’t participate in the ‘GANG RAPE’.

This is the most bizarre justification I’ve ever heard. It is unquestionable that they DIDN’T participate in the ‘GANG RAPE’, because it was committed by someone else. So, how did they know those details?
A) Coincidence
B) The parallel universe in which they committed the crime suddenly melded back with the regular universe between the crime and the confession
C) Coercion by a police force receiving incredible amounts of pressure to convict somebody

Which is more likely?

Should the police have let them go?

Assuming that they didn’t just confess to make the police department look bad 10 years down the road, yes.

‘Wilding’ is the mispronounciation of ‘Wild Thing’ the rap song they sang.

Oh, that act.
Here’s the lyrics to “Wild Thing”. It’s a pretty innocent and light-hearted song compared to present-day rap music.

They got to walk because the retrial, at the end of their sentences, didn’t justify forcing them to complete the terms for the CRIMES THEY CONFESSED TO!

So, even though the real rapist is now known, they should complete their sentences to, um, teach them a lesson not to confess to things they didn’t do?

Or does confessing to something retroactively cause you to have done that thing? Very interesting ontological argument. “The Crucible” contains similar points of view.


Matt Weiner 09.11.03 at 6:39 pm

So the standard is that the Democrats, who can’t prevent Sharpton from running for the nomination, are to be condemned because they don’t organize a boycott of him in the debates. They did encourage Carol Moseley-Braun to run, in order to marginalize Sharpton; they have never nominated Sharpton for dogcatcher; and if they’ve given a pass to any offensive statements in the debates, no one’s cited it–but nothing but an outright boycott will do.

The Republicans, who have engaged in a 40-year pattern of currying favor with segregationists (who incited plenty of racial violence, folks)–welcoming them into the party when the Democrats abandoned them, promoting them to Senate Majority Leader and Chief Justice of the United States*–are to be praised. And the fact that an overwhelming percentage of black voters vote against this party is somehow “Stalinist.”

Makes sense to me.

*See for the skinny on Rehnquist–who in my opinion should make the short list of most despicable people in politics. Unlike Sharpton, who never has held office, Rehnquist has disgraced possibly the most sacred office in the land.


Brett Bellmore 09.12.03 at 1:30 am

Give me a break! I’m not asking you to keep him off the ballot. But you’re not constitutionally required to invite him to your shindigs, or treat him like the decent human being he isn’t if he shows up.

Let’s be clear about this: Did the Democratic party EVENTUALLY ally itself with the civil rights movement? Yeah. After all the heavy lifting was done. After having MADE that lifting as heavy as it could. And, frankly, only after the original goal of the civil rights movement, LEGAL equality, had already been achieved.

That’s when the Democratic party and the “civil rights” movement hooked up. When the latter morphed into the sort of interest group looking for racial spoils you were already used to fronting for. New customer, old gig. Heck, look at your love of gun control laws: YOU’RE STILL FIGHTING TO ENACT JIM CROW LAWS!


Jeffrey Kramer 09.12.03 at 2:40 am

“…[Robertson hasn’t] personally drummed up lynch mobs, which went on to kill somebody.”

Nor has Sharpton. What he did, according to all the accounts I’ve seen so far, was make inflammatory statements in front of a group of protestors. But that group was not a lynch mob, and that group did not go on to kill people: the murders were committed by one individual.

Even if that accusation were closer to being literally true, moreover, it wouldn’t annul the comparison. If I were determined to resent, on Sharpton’s behalf, any comparison with Robertson, I could come up with an impressive list of Robertson sins to which Sharpton could plead “not guilty.” For example, Sharpton has never claimed to be a prophet of God and insinuated that the same fate awaited those who criticized him as awaited those unfortunate boys who taunted the prophet Elisha. The general fact remains: Robertson, like Sharpton, has enough to answer for that it takes a strong stomach and a large degree of cynicism to accept the spectacle of would-be Presidents of the United States agreeing to treat him as a reasonable and honorable man.


Matt Weiner 09.12.03 at 5:16 pm

“Did the Democratic party EVENTUALLY ally itself with the civil rights movement? Yeah. After all the heavy lifting was done. After having MADE that lifting as heavy as it could. And, frankly, only after the original goal of the civil rights movement, LEGAL equality, had already been achieved.”

Hmmm. Lots of the big civil rights laws were passed in the 60s. Which party had the Presidency then?

Brett, I believe you’re saying that the state of civil rights was just fine in ’59. Bye.

–Oh, and gun control equals Jim Crow. Noted.

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