Much has been said of the recent episode in which Don Imus, a radio “shock jock,” made a racist insult against the Rutgers women’s basketball team. I have never listened to Mr. Imus’s program and don’t plan to start. I did hear re-plays of the insult. My reaction is that a media personality who says something of that sort assumes the risk of whatever he gets. It’s the 21st Century, and past time to be done with sliming people because of their race.
It is passing curious, however, that the mainstream media has turned to Reverend Al Sharpton as the Annointed National Spokesman about the Imus affair. Over these last few days, Rev. Sharpton has seldom (actually never, so far as I am able to discern) failed to unburden himself of opinions on whether and under what circumstances an Imus apology should be accepted and, more generally, what the Imus business says about the sorry, if usually concealed, state of white America’s attitude toward African Americans.
To make Rev. Sharpton the arbiter of apology protocol is simply astonishing, given Sharpton’s history of refusing to apologize for his own egregiously racist, and occasionally anti-Semitic, behavior — behavior scarcely limited to one broadcast insult.
Fortunately, Jay Nordlinger, in his National Review article from March 20, 2000, takes us for a stroll down memory lane with the man now acting as America’s National Scold. I excerpt from Nordlinger’s article below:
[Sharpton’s] greatest infamy came in 1987, with the Tawana Brawley hoax. As the journalist Nat Hentoff has put it, this is Sharpton’s “Chappaquiddick.” To recall the horrid affair: A girl named Tawana Brawley, after staying away from home for several days, smeared herself with dog feces, scrawled racial epithets on her body, and hopped into a garbage bag. Then she claimed that six white men, including a police officer, had raped and otherwise tormented her….Al Sharpton, of course, was on the spot. Acting as the Brawley family’s adviser, he urged them not to cooperate with the authorities, including the state attorney general, Robert Abrams. To cooperate with Abrams, he said, would be “to sit down with Mr. Hitler.” A Sharpton sidekick, Alton Maddox, added, “Robert Abrams, you are no longer going to masturbate looking at Tawana Brawley’s picture.”
One of those whom Sharpton and his partners accused was [a white] assistant district attorney, Steven Pagones, who was, needless to say, innocent (the crime never took place). After he was cleared, he held a press conference, which Sharpton, in his theatrical fashion, attempted to crash. “Your accuser has arrived!” he bellowed. Sharpton had said before, “We stated openly that Steven Pagones did it. If we’re lying, sue us, so we can go into court with you and prove you did it. Sue us — sue us right now.” Oddly enough, Pagones did. He spent a decade of his life pursuing a defamation case against Sharpton and his accomplices, finally winning that case one glorious, cleansing day in July of 1998… Sharpton now owes Pagones $65,000 in damages, money that the victim will probably never see. [Some of Sharpton’s cronies have now paid the judgment].
At the heart of any case against Sharpton-and against the notion of a New Sharpton-is his persecution of Steven Pagones. It has been, to use the word for which there is no substitute, evil. He has never apologized for his deeds, and nothing piques him more than to be reminded of them. “If I saved the Pope’s life,” he has sniped, “the media would ask me about Brawley.” In soft moments, he has come close to apologizing (“I have regrets”). In harder ones, he is angrily defiant (“Never, ever!”)… As Sharpton himself has said, to apologize would be “all about submission.” White folk “are asking me to grovel. They want black children to say that they forced a black man coming out of the hardcore ghetto to his knees.” Jesse Jackson gained nothing by apologizing for his “Hymietown” remark, so why should he? Only last year , Sharpton said of his role in the Brawley case, “If I had to do it again, I’d do it in the same way.”
This, again, is the man the mainstream media puts forward to opine at apparently unending length about Mr. Imus’s behavior, and the ins-and-outs of Imus’s apology, which at least has the virtue of existing.
The media’s virtually uniform silence about Sharpton’s history says a great deal about the intimidating position Rev. Sharpton has carved out for himself — and even more about the position the media has come to occupy, a position of justifiably dwindling public trust.