Al Sharpton's Scandals
Discussed cocaine deal on FBI surveillance tape
Known associate of Michael Jackson
Al Sharpton's Skeleton Closet
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Al Sharpton is showbiz -- a former boy preacher, turned reckless demagogue, turning (he hopes) into an elder statesman of Black America.
He has always loved the limelight and hung out with celebrities such as Mahalia Jackson, James Brown, Michael Jackson and Don King.
Say what you want about him, he's certainly entertaining.|
He grew up in a prosperous, suburban family (his dad was a landlord and businessman) and was a child prodigy as a preacher. By age 7, he was touring with gospel great Mahalia Jackson and Bishop F.D. Washington, the renowned Pentacostal minister of Brooklyn's Washington Temple Church of God in Christ as "the Wonder Boy Preacher."
At age 10, however, his parents divorced due to an affair his dad had with Sharpton's half-sister (ie his dad's step-daughter.) Sharpton's mother was forced to go on welfare, and at one point they went without electricity for 6 months. Al became an ordained minister shortly after his parents' divorce.
Al got involved in social activism during his teenage years, organizing several youth protests before he graduated from high school in 1972, and forming a national youth movement, named "National Youth Movement." After two years of college, he dropped out and worked as national touring manager for singer James Brown, where he met his wife Kathy. (They have two teenage daughters.)
Since then he has led numerous publicity grabbing protests following incidents of racial attacks and police brutality (such as the police assault of Haitian immigrant Abner Luoima) and formed a national action network (called "National Action Network") with 20 chapters around the country. In other words, like Pat Buchanan and Jesse Jackson, he is a political figure famous for incendiary talk and not much else.
Quotes""He's sort of a cult leader, actually." -- author Stanley Crouch
"...they will say that Al Sharpton cannot get the majority of the white vote. The fact is--no Democrat has gotten the majority of the white vote in many years. Bill Clinton didn't get the majority of the white vote. The Democratic Party has been able to put together a coalition of a sizeable portion of the white vote, the overwhelming majority of black votes and Latino votes. That has been their winning strategy..." -- Sharpton
The television show HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel showed a 1983 FBI videotape in which Al Sharpton is seen talking about laundering drug money with former mobster Michael Franzese, a Mafioso-turned-undercover-FBI informant posing as a cocaine dealer. Now you might think something like this might be bad news for a presidential candidate, but to hear Sharpton talk about it, there's nothing unseemly about it.
Now, to be fair, no indictments were issued and the sting operation was never completed. But those are pretty thin excuses for a president of the United States. (At least he didn't blame a DUII on his political enemies.)
Sharpton got into this mess through his friendship with boxing promoter Don King, a longtime friend of his. Franzese, a former Colombo family captain, alleges that a South American drug dealer looking to launder money through boxing promotions approached him. According to Franzese,Sharpton was going to arrange a meeting between the dealer and King.
But the drug dealer was really an undercover FBI agent in a probe of boxing corruption. Sharpton claimed the tape was a "total attempt to set up and criminalize people," that it was leaked to scuttle his possible presidential bid, and that HBO distorted the evidence by showing only selected portions of the tape. He also clamed that a second tape existed that exonerated him.
Sharpton sued HBO for defamation and asked for $1 billion in damages. (As if he had a billion dollar reputation before the tape aired.) HBO Sports spokesman Ray Stallone described the suit as "so silly that it is unworthy of comment." Nothing has come of it since it was filed. Click here for sources
Any leader needs to build coalitions among diverse groups and individuals. And no individual is more diverse than Sharpton's recent ally, Michael Jackson.
They appeared together at a news conference where Jackson complained that his recent crappy album "Invincible" sold poorly because of a "racist conspiracy" by Sony Music to "turn the public against me." Yeah, we were all with you Michael until Sony told us to drop you like a hot potato. Jackson went on to say "When you fight for me, you're fighting for all black people, dead and alive." When pressed about his color, Jackson (who reportedly has had numerous skin whitening treatments and nose jobs to appear more Caucasian) said "I know my race. I just look in the mirror. I know I'm black." Click here for sources
Sharpton made his name and his fame as the one to lead a protest movement after every racially charged incident in New York over the last 30 years (and many elsewhere in the U.S.) Especially early in his career, he seemed content and even eager to inflame racial hatreds at the risk of violence, as long as it gave him publicity and power.
Several of these protests escalated to the point of violence, in several cases by those who Sharpton championed. Examples include the Crown Heights riot of 1991, and a 1995 arson attack on a Jewish Harlem jeweler that resulted in 8 deaths. That attack came months after Sharpton made remarks about the "white interloper". (He later apologized, saying that he wouldn't use the word white again in that context.)
Two incidents however appear to have caused him to tone down his excesses and refine his image. First, in 1987, black teenager Tawana Brawley claimed that six white law enforcement officers -- including then-assistant district attorney Steven Pagones -- had abducted and raped her, scrawled racial insults on her body and smeared her with feces.
Miss Brawley refused to speak with authorities or the media, but Sharpton and her two other advisers were soon making wild claims. Sharpton compared then-state Attorney General Robert Abrams, a Jew, to Adolf Hitler. All three linked then-Gov. Mario Cuomo to organized crime and the Ku Klux Klan.
Within a year, a grand jury announced the story was a hoax and specifically cleared a Fishkill police officer and Pagones. Pagones sued Sharpton and the other 2 advisers for more than $150 million for defamation. At this point, Sharpton's involvements is similar to George Bush and the Iraqi uranium purchase forgeries -- it's unclear if he was actively involved in fraud, or just recklessly willing to use information he knew was very shaky to make his political point.
The other turning point came in 1991 when Sharpton was stabbed by a drunk white man during a protest march in Bensonhurst; after that he began to mellow. "There are times [since the stabbing] when I've found him remarkable and responsible," says critic Stanley Crouch. He recalls that after the murder of Yusuf Hawkins, a young black man from Brooklyn, Sharpton brought together Hawkins' stepfather with one of the group of white boys that had killed his son. "This would have been more recognized had it been someone like Giuliani," says Crouch. "After the Diallo verdict, he discouraged people from being violent," warning locals in New York that violence would not only put them in harm's way, but it would reduce them to the low level from which the unjust verdict originated," he notes. "So you have these great moments. He's also taken a more mature vision of the police and moved to differentiate those good white cops, who enforce the law properly in tough and often dangerous environments, and bad cops)."
Quote Sources"Fire & Brimstone" by Tracy Grant, Black Issues Book Review, Sep/Oct2002, Vol. 4 Issue 5, p32
General Sources"Fire & Brimstone" by Tracy Grant, Black Issues Book Review, Sep/Oct2002, Vol. 4 Issue 5, p32
"80s Icon Al Sharpton", in the 1980s web site, www.80s.com (ongoing, quoted July 19, 2003)
Cocaine Videotape Sources"Fire & Brimstone" by Tracy Grant, Black Issues Book Review, Sep/Oct2002, Vol. 4 Issue 5, p32
"Sharpton sues HBO for $1 Billion", by Allison Romano, Broadcasting & Cable; 7/29/2002, Vol. 132 Issue 31, p26
Michael Jackson Sources
"WHAT NOW?", by Michael Kelly, The Atlantic Monthly; Sep2002, Vol. 290 Issue 2, p21
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