Thingish Things

Sharpton Still Uncontrite

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - May• 20•11

Sharpton, Brawley, and Attorney Alton Maddox in 1987

Tawana Brawley isn’t a name you read much about these days. But there it was today in the New York Daily News attached, as it forever will be, to the man who made her infamous, the less than Rev. Al Sharpton.

For those too young to remember, or who have successfully repressed memories of the times, Sharpton riled racial tensions in New York for most of 1987, accusing a group of white men, including a Hudson Valley assistant district attorney, of sexually assaulting the then 15-year-old Brawley for a period of days — and then dumping her, covered in feces, in a trash bin, with racial epithets scrawled across her body to boot.

The story proved to be bogus, yet it ruined the lives of the men involved. One man went into a deep depression and killed himself. But Sharpton never apologized for being wrong. (Many believed that Sharpton knew the story was fabricated from the start.)

Sharpton will apparently appear on 60 Minutes on Sunday to mark the 25th anniversary of his National Black Action Network, where, again, he will refuse to apologize.

Presumably, he is unapologetic, too, for riling up tension in Harlem a decade later against a business known as Freddy’s Fashion Mart. Its crime was that it had Jewish owners — “white interlopers” as Sharpton called them at the time. That ended in tragedy, too. Sharpton, a talented trouble maker with a keen talent for media manipulation, whipped up a frenzy of anger toward the West 125th store — crowds chanted “burn the Jew store down” outside Freddy’s — resulting in a Sharpton supporter torching the place with propellent — after ordering black patrons to leave.  Eight people, including the owner, were roasted alive.

No apology from Sharpton. Nothing.

But, despite these and other incidents, Sharpton gained acceptance in the Democratic Party over time because politicians became fearful of him. Get on his wrong side and the Sharpton PR machine could do a number on you. He even became welcome in some Republican circles. It became hip to know “Rev” in New York.  “Funny,” “quick,” and “savvy” are now words used to describe him.

I can think of others.

Sharpton became a much sought-after media personality in the years following Tawana Brawley.  Brawley made Sharpton famous, and he took full advantage of it, while Brawley faded into obscurity.

But a lot of us still remember that Al Sharpton. The one that is anything but hip. To us, he will forever be an amoral self-promoter who tore New York apart in 1987. Absent contrition, he will always remain that.



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One Comment

  1. JV says:

    Pretty amazing

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