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Imagine if MSNBC gave a TV show to a violent racist who led angry mobs against Jewish and Asian communities and businesses. Mobs that gathered outside a Jewish synagogue chanting “Heil Hitler” and “Death to the Jews.”
Unimaginable, right? Wrong. After years of accusing FOX News of racism, MSNBC gave a violent racist his own show. Of course MSNBC would never give a white racist like David Duke his own show. But they have no problem giving one to Al Sharpton.
Sharpton is many things—a cunning gutter clown, a hate-filled agitator and a savvy trader in political favors. Those qualities have taken him from street riots to a kingmaker role in the Democratic Party to the White House, where he has become its link to the black community.
Sharpton has eclipsed Jesse Jackson as the national agitator with the highest profile, adopting Jackson’s old role of middleman between the Democratic Party and the black community, and his business model of blackmailing corporations with boycott threats to fund his organization. The National Action Network, Sharpton’s organization, commands appearances by Obama and Biden, and true to his usual financial dealings remains deep in debt while paying him a six figure salary.
But there can be no talk of Sharpton without discussing the trail of debris behind him. Yankel Rosenbaum, the University of Melbourne student, stabbed and beaten to death on President Street among the stately manors of what was once known as Doctor’s Row, was the most famous victim of Sharpton’s Crown Height Pogrom, but not the only one.
There was Anthony Graziosi, a white, bearded Italian electronics salesman wearing a dark suit, who was mistaken for a Jew, and died for it. Bracha Estrin, a Holocaust survivor, who saw the mobs chanting “Heil Hitler” and “Death to the Jews” and believing that history was about to repeat itself, jumped rather than fall into their hands.
Twenty years ago this August, a line of bodies was lowered into the ground. And Sharpton walked away with a higher national profile than ever. Three years later, another round of racist protests at Freddy’s Fashion Mart with protesters screaming, “Burn down this Jew store!” led to an attack that killed seven minority employees.
The Freddy’s protests were led by Morris Powell, head of the Buy Black Committee at Sharpton’s National Action Network. Powell had been previously put on trial for breaking the head of a Korean woman during one of his pickets.
Sharpton’s MO was to create chaos, and then represent himself as the man who could stop it. The uglier the confrontations got, the more people died, the more credibility he gained.
In 2001, he went from terrorizing entire neighborhoods to claiming control over the outcome of the mayoral election. Shortly thereafter the New York State Democratic Party made it clear that attacks on Sharpton were no longer acceptable. Senate candidates were expected to court the hatemonger and did. And then it was presidential candidates.
Sharpton’s presidential run utilized the same tactics at the national level that had worked for him at the city and state level. He wasn’t out to win, just to cause enough chaos and uncertainty that the party would buy him off. And it worked.
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