Back in 1987, a young demagogue named Al Sharpton leapt onto the national scene, accusing a New York assistant district attorney, Steven Pagones, of raping a 15-year-old girl, Tawana Brawley. Actually, Sharpton claimed that Pagones had raped Brawley, anally raped Brawley and then scrawled the initials "KKK" on Brawley's torso in feces.
"We stated openly that Steven Pagones did it," Sharpton proclaimed. "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." Pagones sued. Pagones won. But Sharpton never apologized and had his supporters foot the bill.
Twenty-six years later, Sharpton still believes Brawley. Interviewed this week on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Sharpton explained, "It's a case where if I was called today by a young lady who made those claims, I would respond the same way. ... Why would I say that I should not come to the defense of someone who had made a claim?"
Sharpton's racial arson didn't end there. From his 1994 Kean College speech ("Do some cracker come and tell you, 'Well my mother and father blood go back to the Mayflower,' you better hold your pocket. That ain't nothing to be proud of, that means their forefathers was crooks.") to his involvement in the Crown Heights riots ("If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house"), from the Freddie's Fashion Mart incident (in which Sharpton railed against "white interlopers," after which one of Sharpton's followers burned eight people to death) to the Trayvon Martin case, Sharpton has been on the front lines of racial extortion for decades. No wonder Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote in his diary, "Al Sharpton has done more damage to the black cause than (segregationist Alabama Gov.) George Wallace. He has suffocated the decent black leaders in New York. His transparent venal blackmail and extortion schemes taint all black leadership."
Despite Sharpton's notorious history of race baiting and divisiveness, he has a primetime show on MSNBC. In employing him, Phil Griffin of MSNBC explained, "I've known Rev. Sharpton for over a decade and have tremendous respect for him. He has always been one of our most thoughtful and entertaining guests."
And his advertisers agree -- Ritz Crackers, owned by Mondelez International, said, "At Mondelez International we demonstrate our commitment to responsible corporate citizenship by participating in programs that best serve a wide range of local communities and their interests and needs. We extend our responsibility to the sponsorship of tasteful, believable television programming, and we avoid sponsorship of programs that would be unacceptable in terms of generally accepted social or community standards."
And herein lies the problem. While the sponsors of right-wing commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs face the astroturfed efforts of leftist groups, folks like Sharpton are granted the patina of legitimacy. That's why I, along with the David Horowitz Freedom Center, started TruthRevolt.org, an organization dedicated to holding advertisers and sponsors accountable for the sources they support. The media has been worth 10 points in elections to the left, thanks to the right's willingness to play by the Marquess of Queensberry rules. Sharpton's presence on national television demonstrates the ultimate disregard in which the media and their sponsors hold the American public. It's time to hold them accountable.