Is Al Sharpton’s Influence Diminishing?

Rev. Al Sharpton (Credit: AP/Seth Wenig)
Rev. Al Sharpton (Credit: AP/Seth Wenig)

The Rev is a timeless adapter, able to exploit every news moment to maximum effect. It didn’t happen this time.

The Rev. Al Sharpton apparently thought Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Chris Paul and even Doc Rivers needed his coaching in this week’s battle with Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Given that Sterling’s troubles emanated from a leaked tape recording, maybe the Rev. thought they’d benefit from his own taping experiences, honed years ago underthe tutelage of the FBI.

Though the NBA’s players union asked Sacramento mayor and ex-Phoenix Suns star Kevin Johnson to act as its adviser in the Sterling controversy, Sharpton repeatedly tried to put himself center stage, threatening protests at the league’s Manhattan headquarters and the Clippers’ playoff game. Right up to NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s press conference banning Sterling for life, Sharpton kept using his NBC platform —ranging from his “Meet the Press” demands on Sunday to appearances on several MSNBC shows, including his own — to seek credit for Sterling’s eventual ouster, which everyone expected would be the dunk of the year, or maybe the epoch.

Even after Silver’s unprecedented actions, Sharpton issued a statement seeking a meeting with Silver to find ways “to make sure this never happens again,” announcing that he wanted NAACP interim president Lorraine Miller to join the session. Of course, the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP had already honored Sterling in 2008 (President’s Award) and 2009 (Lifetime Achievement), even though George Bush’s Justice Department was then suing him for housing discrimination. When he was caught on tape making outrageous racial comments, Sterling was getting his tuxedo ready for the upcoming NAACP dinner on May 15 to collect a second Lifetime Achievement award. Instead, he got Silver’s lifetime ban.

Sharpton’s name appeared at the top of the Los Angeles NAACP dinner invitation, right above Sterling’s (before it was deleted), and Sharpton is still scheduled to receive his “Person of the Year” honors, amid awards to such civil rights giants as top Wal-Mart executives. Leon Jenkins, the head of the NAACP chapter in Los Angeles that picked Sterling, recently co-authored an Op-Ed on state budget cuts with the president of Sharpton’s local National Action Network. Maybe the Rev and the NAACP need to have a meeting of their own “to make sure” that the sale of civil rights honors “never happens again.”

The Sharpton camera-grab on Sterling didn’t attract much support, an unfortunate surprise for the TV host, as insinuating himself into an overnight win-win situation could have counterbalanced one of his worst stretches in the media since his latest reinvention.

Sharpton recently got four New York tabloid covers in the New York Post and New York Daily News in two days, followed by dozens of other stories — all revolving around hard documentary evidence revealed by the Smoking Gun that he was so cozy with the mob in the ’80s that he taped 10 meetings with one gangster that lasted hours (ultimately becoming the basis for FBI wiretaps on the most powerful Mafia leaders in America). On Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, where Sharpton was once welcomed as a friend of the program, an ex-cop said he was known on the street as The Fat Rat. As hot as the fire around Sharpton was, he motored on, both a captive and champion of his personal history of scandal, a rogue for all seasons.

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Source: Salon | 

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