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Reverend Alfred Charles "Al" Sharpton, Jr. (born 1954) is an African-American activist, political commentator and Baptist preacher from New York City. He first became famous in the 1980s with his protests against racial injustice, his involvement in fanning the flames of the Tawana Brawley case, and the Crown Heights riot. He is also an entrepreneur, founder of the National Youth Movement, National Action Network and was manager for soul singer James Brown.
Sharpton is a fiery orator and is often criticized by right-wingers for trying to grab the spotlight in prominent racial issues; basically, he calls them out on their racist crap and they hate him for it.
Some claim he expressed anger at "the [Jewish] diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights" vis-a-vis dealing with apartheid South Africa, and that this constituted antisemitism. As a result, he's sometimes been compared to various ideologues like Pat Buchanan. However, Sharpton denied having made some of the remarks attributed to him, and many Jewish leaders do not think Sharpton is anti-semitic.
After not having learned his lesson from the Brawley case, in 2006 he was among those screaming bloody murder about racism in the Duke lacrosse case, which turned out to be the fabrication of a deeply disturbed individual and gross prosecutorial misconduct that ultimately resulted in the disbarment of North Carolina District Attorney Michael Nifong. After Whoopi Goldberg demanded that he apologize for contributing to the toxicity surrounding the case, he refused and instead claimed that he "wasn't involved" in any way.
Sharpton has a show at MSNBC called PoliticsNation, and has also made frequent guest appearances on Fox News. As a show host, Sharpton eschews all pretense of objectivity, and evinces a propagandist's approach when it comes to Barack Obama. As journalist and pundit Glenn Greenwald asked, "How can a media outlet… possibly employ someone as a journalist — even an opinion journalist — who publicly and categorically pledges never to criticize the President of the United States under any circumstances?"
Despite his decline in relevance (at least compared to the 1980s and 1990s), conservatives love using him and Jesse Jackson as scapegoats in discussions about race relations in the United States, especially with the rise of #BlackLivesMatter in 2015. Just like "social justice warrior", Al Sharpton's name has become a handy means of ending conversations. If someone expresses the belief that African Americans aren't getting a fair shake from society, Al Sharpton will be invoked by those who disagree, with the implication that Sharpton's existence somehow proves that reverse racism is a bigger problem. However, an increasing amount of critics of BLM use Jackson and Sharpton the same way conservatives have been using Martin Luther King for decades, as examples of "real" civil rights leaders who believe in equality, fighting against "real" racism, in order to appeal to a more moderate audience.
- The Gaffes of Al Sharpton by William Saletan & Avi Zenilman (Oct. 7 2003 10:49 AM) Slate.
- Derrick Z. Jackson, "Uneasy About Sharpton." Boston Globe: February 25, 2000.
- Al Sharpton’s Jewish Problem by Richard Goldstein (Tuesday, November 13, 2001 at 4 a.m.) 'The Village Voice.
- Whoopi to Sharpton: Apologize to Duke Players by Geoffrey Bennett (Oct. 10, 2007) NPR.
- Al Sharpton's Secret Work As FBI Informant: Untold story of how activist once aided Mafia probes by William Bastone et al. (April 7, 2014) The Smoking Gun.
- Al Sharpton, MSNBC and journalistic standards: The reported new nighttime host publicly vowed never to criticize the President by Glenn Greenwald (Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 12:28 PM UTC) Salon.
- Al Sharpton Is A Bigot… Against Fat People: The trim activist loves to mock the overweight August 26, 2014. The Smoking Gun.