Where's the Fire? Ignoring Al Sharpton's Inflammatory Past -- December 5, 2003 -- TimesWatch.org
By: Clay Waters

Times Watch for December 5, 2003

Where's the Fire? Ignoring Al Sharpton's Inflammatory Past

Friday's front-page story by Michael Slackman, "Sharpton Runs for Presidency, and Influence," is the latest article in a series profiling all the Democratic candidates for president. While not outright hagiography, it's unnecessarily respectful of the hate-mongering Sharpton, and leaves out major unflattering parts of Sharpton's bio: "Al Sharpton, 49, is accustomed to defying expectations. Respecting the challenge of a presidential campaign is one thing; doubting himself is another. His friends say it is hard to overestimate his faith in his own ability."

Halfway through the article, Slackman brings up the Tawana Brawley case: "Mr. Sharpton has several problems that extend beyond the skepticism that people like Ms. Jackson feel toward his brand of politics. The first is the legacy of the 1987 Tawana Brawley case, in which a grand jury eventually declared the teenager's story about being abducted by a group of white men and raped a hoax. But there also is the murky nature of his personal finances. His detractors say that if he were a serious candidate, his finances alone would knock him out of contention. Mr. Sharpton, for example, once said during a deposition for a lawsuit stemming from the Brawley case that the only property he owned was a watch and a wedding ring and that everything else--even the clothing on his back--was paid for by someone else, given as a gift, or simply made available for his use."

Though Slackman touches on the Brawley case, he ignores two other incendiary examples of Sharpton's hate-mongering, which the Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby outlined in a column earlier this year.

Jacoby writes of a 1991 incident: "A Hasidic Jewish driver in Brooklyn's Crown Heights section accidentally kills Gavin Cato, a 7-year-old black child, and anti-Semitic riots erupt. Sharpton races to pour gasoline on the fire. At Gavin's funeral he rails against the 'diamond merchants'--code for Jews--with 'the blood of innocent babies' on their hands."

Jacoby also notes this from 1995: "When the United House of Prayer, a large black landlord in Harlem, raises the rent on Freddy's Fashion Mart, Freddy's white Jewish owner is forced to raise the rent on his subtenant, a black-owned music store. A landlord-tenant dispute ensues; Sharpton uses it to incite racial hatred. 'We will not stand by,' he warns malignantly, "and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.' Sharpton's National Action Network sets up picket lines; customers going into Freddy's are spat on and cursed. 'We're going to see that this cracker suffers,' says Sharpton's colleague Morris Powell. On Dec. 8, one of the protesters bursts into Freddy's, shoots four employees point-blank, then sets the store on fire. Seven employees die in the inferno."

While Slackman ignores Sharpton's inflammatory behavior from 1991 and 1995, he relates this story from even further back that casts Sharpton in a sympathetic light: "Mr. Sharpton says his transformation into a candidate began in 1989, when he was stabbed during a protest in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. He was leading the charge on behalf of a young black man, this time Yusuf Hawkins, who had been killed in a white neighborhood. Mr. Sharpton says his wounding profoundly changed him and that it ignited the drive to broaden his influence."

Slackman concludes the Sharpton profile in a way that no doubt pleases the candidate, casting him as a bridge between rappers and the civil rights movement: "Still, in his quest to win old and young by embodying both Dr. King and Dr. Dre, Mr. Sharpton is not dwelling on any weaknesses. He is busy rousing his audiences."

For the rest of Slackman on Sharpton, click here.

Campaign 2004 | Race Issues | Al Sharpton | Michael Slackman

When In Rome, Beat Up On Pro-Bush Berlusconi

Sharpton certainly got a warmer welcome from Friday's Times than did Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Reporting from Rome, Frank Bruni resumes his anti-Berlusconi pose, describing the Bush-supporting, pro-war Berlusconi as self-congratulatory and gaffe-prone (traits of course never displayed by any other European leader): "Mr. Berlusconi's stated philosophy left little if any room for the kinds of qualms expressed by so many of his European counterparts....Over the last few days and weeks, he has been attacked by political opponents here and elsewhere in Europe for legislation that seems to favor his vast media empire, for his emphatic support of Israel and for his recent defense of Russian policies in Chechnya. But the prime minister seemed wholly unbowed by that and, even as he was recovering from the flu, spoke energetically and expansively, in soliloquies bereft of self-criticism and brimming with self-congratulation....There was no sense of equivocation in Mr. Berlusconi, whether he was cheering the United States, trumpeting his plans to transform Italy's economy or discussing, without apology, his ever-lengthening string of political gaffes."

For the rest of Bruni on Berlusconi, click here.

Silvio Berlusconi | Frank Bruni | Europe | Iraq War

"Tenacious" Humans Destroying the Planet

Are humans just as harmful to the planet as a meteor strike? In Thursday's editorial "A Meteoric View of Life," the Times uses a scientific study--which suggests a meteor hit Earth 250 million years ago and caused a mass extinction of species--to put humanity in its place as a planetary pest with a "tenacious occupation of the globe" that's been just as harmful to other species as a catastrophic meteor strike.

According to the Times, species are dying all around us, and we're to blame (though the paper provides no evidence): "We live in the midst of one of the great extinctions, largely caused by humans, and yet we've experienced nothing like the meteor that crashed into the earth 65 million years ago and destroyed the dinosaurs....The knowledge of [the planet's] vitality is immensely encouraging. But it must never serve as a way of excusing our own responsibility as we watch species after species die out during our tenacious occupation of the globe. There's no controlling the possibility of a meteor strike. But there's every reason--ethical and practical--for preventing our own habitation of earth from having the same impact."

One expects to find liberal bias in the Times, but Times Watch wasn't prepared to see bias against humans as well....

For the rest of the Times on those harmful humans, click here.

Editorial | Environment | Gaffes | Meteor

Not Dead Yet

The New York tabloids are having fun with an erroneous obituary on ballet dancer Katherine Sergava that appeared in Thursday's Times. The Times Friday edition issues a correction blaming the Daily Telegraph of London, from which the Times had gotten the information (but for which it failed to credit the Telegraph).

The Times writes: "An obituary on this page yesterday erroneously reported the death of Katharine Sergava, a dancer and an actress who portrayed the dream-ballet version of Laurey, the heroine, in the original production of 'Oklahoma!' Friends of hers reported the error yesterday. The obituary was based on one in The Daily Telegraph of London on Nov. 29. The Times was unable to confirm her death independently and, through reporting and editing errors, omitted attribution. The Telegraph says it has begun its own inquiry. Ms. Sergava, who is 94 and has lived in Manhattan for many years, was hospitalized in November and is now in a nursing home."

Corrections | Gaffes | Obituary | Katherine Sergava

Bullying Bush Backs Down

Bush backed down, says David Sanger in "A Blink From the Bush Administration," his Friday report on Bush's lifting of steel tariffs. Sanger, who disdains what he perceives as Bush's lack of curiosity and his unilateral philosophy portrays the decision as a bully wincing from being hit back: "For the first time in his nearly three years in office, the president, who has often reveled in the exercise of American power, finally met an international organization that had figured out how to hit back at the administration where it would hurt."

For the rest of Sanger on blinking Bush, click here.

George W. Bush | David Sanger | Steel Tariffs

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