The Rev and the Prez
April 11, 2011
The same guy who half-heartedly supported the 2009 mayoral bid of the city’s black Democratic Comptroller William Thompson against incumbent mayor Michael Bloomberg turned up in New York last week to honor an altogether different black Democrat — Al Sharpton.
That’s President Obama, folks, who seems deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to understanding New York City.
With many New Yorkers furious that Bloomberg bought off City Council members to overturn the two-term term limits law, Thompson surpassed expectations and came within 4 ½ percentage points of beating Mayor Mike.
Had Obama thrown the weight of the Presidency behind him, Thompson probably would have won, sparing citizens the likes of Cathie Black and the debacle of the post-Christmas blizzard while Mayor Mike partied in Bermuda. A Thompson victory could have also helped shore up Obama’s black base.
To that end, Obama appeared last week at the Hilton, where Sharpton is hosting a four-day blast for his National Action Network. Having blown his chance to back Thompson in 2009, Obama apparently believes that appearing with Sharpton will gain him black votes in 2012.
If anyone doubted Obama’s belief in Sharpton’s value, the next day he sent White House advisor Valerie Jarrett to the Hilton. According to the New York Post, Jarrett praised Sharpton for his social activism, citing a recent trip The Rev made to Arizona to protest its border policies that discriminate against Hispanics.
Sharpton is, of course, living proof that F. Scott Fitzgerald was dead wrong when he said that there are no second acts in American lives.
Sharpton has enjoyed third, fourth and fifth acts while playing to increasingly larger audiences.
A former federal informant, turned professional race-baiter and anti-Semite [when it suits him], The Rev has become so embedded within the city’s political and media establishment that major public officials — who now include President Obama — do not see his past as a detriment.
All that remains is for the Anti-Defamation League to name Sharpton Man of the Year.
Two months ago, the Post reported that Sharpton owed the IRS $359,973 in personal income taxes and a total of $3.7 million in city, state and federal taxes dating to 2002.
The Post also reported that Sharpton made $250, 000 as head of the National Action Network [NAN] in 2009. The NAN ended that year owing $1.1 million in taxes.
Like Roy Cohn, the quintessential deadbeat lawyer who owed millions to the IRS but ended up at the heart of the city’s political scrum, Sharpton lives lavishly yet appears to own nothing.
Until it closed last January for renovations that will turn it into residences, Sharpton hung his hat at the Carlton House at 680 Madison Avenue, a step and a jump from the tony Regency, where he is a breakfast regular.
His success has become intertwined with that of Mayor Mike and Police Commissioner Kelly, both of whom treat him as a serious person.
Kelly’s spokesman Paul Browne even spun the preposterous notion that the police commissioner has known Sharpton since he was a schoolboy and Kelly walked a beat. [Sharpton was a schoolboy in Brooklyn. Kelly walked a beat in Manhattan.]
No matter. Bloomberg attends Sharpton’s annual NAN affairs. Kelly invites Sharpton to the Apollo Theater to lecture police recruits on race relations.
And making nice with The Rev does produce benefits. Sharpton was relatively quiet after the 50-shot police killing of Sean Bell, an unarmed black man. He has been even quieter about the department’s controversial stops-and-frisks of New Yorkers of color.
In 2003, after police shot and killed the African immigrant Ousmane Zongo in a Chelsea warehouse, mistaking him for a burglar, Sharpton supposedly arranged a meeting between Kelly and Zongo’s widow. The Rev then announced that Kelly had promised a full departmental investigation into Zongo’s shooting.
If there has been an investigation, neither Kelly nor Sharpton has told anyone the results.
Contrast Sharpton’s silence with his behavior during past administrations, such as that of Ed Koch, who called him Al Charlatan.
After The Rev groused that Rudy Giuliani had tried to “demonize” him, Sharpton successfully demonized Giuliani.
In 1997, Sharpton led massive protests to City Hall after a police officer sodomized a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima. He then ran for mayor, amassing enough votes in the Democratic primary to force a run-off with front-runner Ruth Messinger, whom Giuliani shellacked in the general election.
In 1999, Sharpton gave Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir more agita when he led month-long daily protests outside Police Plaza after police shot and killed an unarmed African immigrant, Amadou Diallo. Virtually every black politician in town and beyond showed up.
Perhaps Obama’s greatest service to the country vis-à-vis Sharpton would be to hold a beer summit with The Rev and the various people he has accused over the years of racism.
Maybe Obama could become the first person to shame Sharpton into apologizing for some of his more vile remarks.
Consider what the Rev said about Jews in 1991 following the tragic death in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, of Gavin Cato, an eight-year-old black child, accidentally struck by a car in the motorcade of a Hasidic rabbi. The ensuing riot led to the fatal stabbing of a Jewish rabbinical scholar by some black thugs.
In case anyone has forgotten, here is some of what Sharpton said at the time.
“Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights.” And: “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house."
Or consider his remarks about Steven Pagones in the 1987 Tawana Brawley hoax, the case that brought Sharpton to prominence.
Brawley, a black teenager, falsely claimed that from two to six white men kidnapped and raped her. She named Pagones, a Duchess County Assistant District Attorney, as one of them.
Without any evidence, Sharpton repeated Brawley’s slander against Pagones. And kept repeating it.
According to the Associated Press, Sharpton and Brawley’s two attorneys, Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, repeated that Pagones had “kidnapped, abused and raped” Brawley on 33 separate occasions.
Pagones sued the three of them and won $345,000 in damages. Sharpton was ordered to pay $65,000.
He refused. Wealthy benefactors fronted the money for him.
The Rev also refused to apologize to Pagones. His last words to the Associated Press on the subject were: “Apologize for what? Believing the young lady?”
Another retired NYPD sergeant writes: “The correct approach would have been for the MTA officer to take cover, shout, ‘Police! Don’t move!’ and engage in a careful procedure to verify identity. If I fired my weapon every time someone — civilian, retired or on-duty member of the service shouted ‘gun!’, I think I might have shot about a dozen people.
“The NYPD has written rivers of ink and [devoted] hours of training on this problem. The actions of the MTA, from my perspective, were the result of unfathomably bad training and a complete lack of coordination with the Nassau County Police Department.”
A former top NYPD official writes: “The crime scene where a police shooting had just occurred involved ten officers from two departments, a guy in plainclothes approaching in the dark with a rifle and a guy who yells ‘Gun!’ Taking cover is a valid guide under ideal circumstances. Certainly this was less than ideal. Here it was dark. There had already been a shooting. There was a commotion inside the house, and then outside this guy appears in plainclothes.”
As for training, he says, “The MTA was formed in 1998. Since then all recruits go through the NYPD Academy, followed by 12 weeks of additional training. The MTA responded over 500 times in 2010 to assist other agencies.”
Said Reed: “Have a nice day.”
Copyright © 2011 Leonard Levitt