The other week, Pete Buttigieg joined a long list of 2020 Democrat hopefuls who have kissed the ring of their new powerbroker, Al Sharpton.
Like many Jewish Americans past the age of 40, I watched in amazement as Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Yang, Julián Castro, John Delaney, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Chuck Schumer, and Eric Swalwell all appeared at the National Action Network (NAN) 2019 Convention and bent their knees and pledged fealty to the old firebrand, “Rev. Al.”
Dumbfounded by this display, I went back to the drawing board and restudied the history of a man I always considered a racist and vehement anti-Semite. Maybe I had been wrong all these years.
Sharpton burst on the scene in November 1987 when he and a duo of fellow racial hucksters, C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox Jr., took up the case of a 15-year-old black girl, Tawana Brawley. Brawley claimed to have been raped by six white men including a Duchess County prosecutor, Steven A Pagones.
The following year, a grand jury exonerated Pagones, suggesting that the girl had concocted a hoax to avoid punishment by her stepfather for being out without permission. The grand jury also implied that Brawley’s advisers had allowed the case to mushroom into a national cause despite all indications that her account was suspicious from the start.
Pagones was totally vindicated, but his personal and professional life was ruined following a divorce and a forced retirement as prosecutor.
Two years later, in 1990, he was at it again. Proving that his hatred was not restricted to Jews, Sharpton charged that the owner of a Korean grocery store had assaulted a Haitian woman caught shoplifting. The owner’s denials fell upon deaf ears. For nine long months, on a daily basis, Sharpton led a raucous group that harassed the store owner.
Eventually, the man, Pong Ok Jang, went to trial and was acquitted. Unfortunately, by that time it was too late for his business, which went bankrupt. His real crime was being Korean instead of black.
The following year, Sharpton’s adroitness in fanning the fires of anti-Semitism was on display during the Crown Heights riots, which began on Monday, August 19, 1991 after a tragic car accident that resulted in the death of a seven-year-old boy, Gavin Cato.
Sharpton immediately spread the rumor that the Jewish community was at fault for the tragedy. At the boy’s funeral attendees were heard screaming, “Hitler did not finish his job.” For his part, Sharpton stated, “The world will tell us that Cato was killed by accident. It’s an accident to allow an apartheid ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights.”
Hours after the accident, a pogrom ensued, and a young Jewish scholar, Yankel Rosenberg was surrounded by a marauding band of blacks and stabbed to death. In a 2018 article entitled, “How Al Sharpton Inflamed The Crown Heights Riot and How The Media Lied,” author Jeff Dunetz writes:
“On the third day of the pogrom, Al Sharpton and Sonny Carson led a march of protesters chanting, ‘No Justice, No Peace!,’ ‘Death to the Jews!’ and ‘Whose streets? Our streets!’ The mob displayed anti-Semitic signs and burned an Israeli flag.”
Four years hence, on December 8, 1995, Sharpton incited the violent firebombing of Freddy’s Fashion Mart in Harlem causing the death of eight innocent people.
An African American Church, The United House of Prayer, raised the rent of Freddy’s Fashion Mart, a Jewish-owned business of 40 years in Harlem. In turn, Freddy’s raised the rent on its sub-tenant, a black-owned record store. Sharpton quickly stepped in. Spewing his usual anti-Semitic rhetoric, he led protests that began in August and came to a head on the morning of Friday, December 8.
On that morning, Roland James Smith, who had been part of Sharpton’s incessant protests, walked into Freddy’s Fashion Mart, pulled out a gun, and ordered all the black customers to leave. He then poured a flammable liquid on some clothing and set the store ablaze, taking the lives of all the white people within.
As has been his modus operandi for his entire public career, Sharpton feigned innocence. But for months prior to the deadly event, both he and all major black-owned radio stations shamelessly gave voice to anti-Jewish rhetoric, seeking to oust Jewish ownership of businesses throughout Harlem. The inflammatory nature of these transmissions were surreptitiously taped, the transcripts of which can be found online. They cannot be explained away.
From Sharpton’s point of view, though, they needn’t be. If anything, Sharpton has been rewarded for all his debauchery, intemperance, and bigotry. For the past eight years he’s hosted his own show on MSNBC and, despite his notoriety – or possibly because of it – he has become mainstream even among so-called moderate Democrats.
Even people like Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg try to ingratiate themselves with him. Hopefully, the Jewish electorate will have a far better memory of his checkered past before choosing a nominee so dependent upon his good graces.