Skip to comments.Newsweek Puff Piece on Sharpton Distorts Reality
Posted on 08/16/2010 11:50:31 AM PDT by jazusamo
The transformation of Reverend Al Sharpton from street provocateur to civil rights eminence ranks as one of the more remarkable image makeovers in American public life. And mainstream journalism has played a central role. Anyone doubting as much should read the recent (August 2) cover story of Newsweek magazine, "The Reinvention of the Reverend."  Written by Allison Samuels and Jerry Adler, the article is a fawning and misleading portrait of the Harlem-based preacher/politician. The piece doesn't quite beatify Sharpton. But it does make a highly selective use of information, some of it factually wrong, in stating the case for "the Rev," as he is commonly known, as a moral conscience of the nation. It also stands as an example, as if any more were needed, that "diversity" in the newsroom isn't about a diversity of opinion.
Reverend Sharpton, as National Legal and Policy Center often has noted, has a long history of public demagoguery in the service of civil rights. In the spring of 2009 NLPC released a lengthy (see pdf) Special Report  (which I had written) documenting how Sharpton has used his social standing among many fellow blacks to transform a crime, or an allegation of it, into collective moral grievance. His style follows a distinct pattern. First, he receives word of a black or blacks allegedly victimized by white civilians or cops. Should he be sufficiently outraged, he will insist on serving as that person (and his or her family's) "adviser." At that point, he will launch a nonstop media-focused campaign in the streets designed to mobilize public opinion in favor of the victim and against the opposition. In his mind, blacks continue to be second-class citizens, their cries for justice all but ignored by powerful elites. Thus, these elites must feel the heat of the street. In his 2002 autobiography, Al on America , he writes (pp. 93, 95): "To many in America, racism is a thing of the past. It's something that happened back then.' To millions of blacks in this country, it is something we live with every day...(T)he outcome of my marches is one of the reasons why I will always be considered controversial' in some circles - because I rip the veil off Northern established liberal racism."
It's true that Al Sharpton doesn't project the buffoonish swagger and menace that launched his career as an A-list provocateur around 25 years ago and carried him through the Nineties. To some extent, that's a product of aging. Now 55, he would look doubly foolish remaining in his old guise, pompadour hairstyle intact. But more significantly, he doesn't have to project menace. He knows he can accomplish far more with his America-is-still-racist-country message by affecting statesmanlike dignity. Over the years the man has cultivated many friends and allies in the top echelons of politics, business, labor, philanthropy, clergy and entertainment. His New York-based nonprofit organization, National Action Network, enjoys generous financial support from corporations such as Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Macy's, Toyota and Wal-Mart. He has become a Democratic Party kingmaker in New York City. And he's reached across that proverbial aisle, befriending such conservative politicians and media stars as Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Fox News Channel talk show host Bill O'Reilly. With the help of his top aide and media consultant, Rachel Noerdlinger (herself an underrated figure), he's become The Man to See. Not less than eight times since President Obama's inauguration, he's been a White House guest.
At his core, Rev. Sharpton is still the same man, something he doesn't hesitate to point out. The Newsweek article quotes him: "My mission, my message, and everything else about me is the same as always. The country may have changed, but I haven't." But his evolution in style, as opposed to beliefs, has everything to do with why mainstream media, generally dismissive of Sharpton during the Eighties, Nineties and even his run for the presidency in 2004, now appears almost lovestruck. No longer an embarrassing spectacle, he's become Sensible and Dignified, a pragmatic facilitator of an overdue "national conversation" on race. Even more than Jesse Jackson, he is the presumptive heir to Martin Luther King, wielding his church- and street-bred wisdom to "heal" America. Typical of this view is an article appearing this March in the Wall Street Journal by Peter Wallsten titled, "Obama's New Partner: Al Sharpton,"  which hopefully took note of Sharpton's emergence as a key confidante of President Obama.
Now here come Newsweek's Allison Samuels and Jerry Adler with a full-fledged cover story. It's a puff job - often informative and nuanced, but still a puff job whose intent is image enhancement. Lead author Samuels herself is black; she in fact had authored a post-election celebration piece in 2008 in that magazine's heralding the impending arrival of Michelle Obama as First Lady ("What Michelle Means to Us" ). This latest article, not unexpectedly, takes any number of facts out of context and inserts some suspect ones.
More at NLPC
Newsweek lying? That’s not news.
2 words for “Rev.” Sharpton-Tawana Brawley.
I heard Bo Diddly tell Imus this morning that Sharpton has been “quiet” on “thee mosque” because Bloomberg gave him $120K, presumably for Rev. Al’s “religious work” or whatever.
A communist disguised as a race pimp.
I don’t doubt that a bit, Sharpton’s nothing more than a shakedown artist. Being that Bloomberg is for the mosque the city got off easy at $120K. These turkeys all belong in jail.
The way Bo put it, I think Bloomberg, gave Sharpton a personal “donation”.
Yeah, that makes sense, I’d bet he’s better of financially than NYC. :-)