What a discovery! How’d they get the scoop? Were Bradley Manning and Julian Assange involved? Did Eric Holder swipe phone records to get to the bottom of it?
The Tawana Brawley case that captivated New York in the late eighties is a shocking reminder of the toxic mix racial exploitation and personal ambition can produce. The New York Times and Retroreport.org have just released a new 15-minute documentary on the despicable hoax, which should be required viewing for the NBC news executives who are heavily invested in rehabilitating a key culprit of this loathsome episode: the Reverend Al Sharpton.
Brawley was 15 years old in 1987, when she was found in her hometown of Wappingers Falls, New York with “Bitch,” “KKK” and “Nigger” written on her stomach, her jeans burnt in the crotch, feces in her hair and her tennis shoes sliced open. She said that she had been abducted and raped by a group of white men.
A trio of increasingly prominent, and radical, New York City black activists represented her and her family: attorneys Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason and the Reverend Al Sharpton. Brawley told them said that a cop had been one of her attackers and Sharpton named that officer as Harry Crist, Jr., a police officer from a nearby town who had committed suicide shortly after Brawley was found. Sharpton also named a local prosecutor, Steven Pagones, as one of the attackers. He offered no proof.
Governor Mario Cuomo dispatched a veteran prosecutor, Jack Ryan, to handle the case. Brawley and her advisers refused to co-operate in any way with Ryan and his team. “That was the decision of the lawyers,” Sharpton says defensively in the Times interview. When asked why Brawley’s team would not meet with New York State Attorney General, Robert Abrams, Sharpton said it would be “like “asking someone who watched someone killed in the gas chamber to sit down with Mr. Hitler.” Sharpton later accused Ryan of kicking a blind man in a scuffle with demonstrators. Ryan was nowhere near the scene.
After a six-month investigation a grand jury investigation found that the entire episode had been a hoax, with Brawley having defaced herself to avoid the wrath of her step-father after staying out late to visit a boyfriend.
I remember the front-page evisceration of the case in the New York Times (back when they still occasionally practiced journalism). More than an evisceration, it was a flaying and filleting of the case. There was nothing left but the dripping puddle of the reputations of Maddox, Mason, and Sharpton. The first two sank into relative obscurity.
Sharpton was just getting started:
Sharpton was a key player inflaming the 1991 Crown Heights riots following the death of a young African American who was hit by an ambulance driven by a Hassidic driver. Sharpton called Jews “diamond merchants” with “the blood of innocent babies” on their hands. A mob subsequently attacked and murdered an innocent Hassidic Jewish student visiting from Australia. (Twenty-five years later, he wrote a mealy-mouthed not-quite apology for his rhetoric.)
A few years later, an African American Pentecostal church asked a Jewish tenant of a church owned property, Freddie Fashion’s Mart, to evict one of his subtenants, an African American run record store. Sharpton led protests crying, “We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.” One of the protestors attacked Freddie Fashion Mart, shot several customers and started a fire that killed seven employees.
The Democratic Party and its candidates for President in 2004 were perfectly content to have Sharpton appear in Presidential debates. Not one candidate called Sharpton out for his outrageous history of hate.
You know where this is going. You should:
And today one of the great American news organizations, NBC news, is spending millions of dollars to rehabilitate and promote Al Sharpton. Americans have been pretty good at sniffing out and discarding haters, but here is Al Sharpton on NBC and MSNBC being promoted as a credible source of information. Sharpton has gone from manipulating the news with vile accusations to delivering the news for NBC. When the Boston bombing story broke, there was Al Sharpton delivering breaking news for MSNBC.
“You would think that if he sold you such a terrible bill of goods for such a giant story that dominated the news for such a long time,” says former Village Voice journalist Wayne Barrett in the Times documentary, speaking to his journalist brethren, “that you would not show up at his next news conference with a camera.”
NBC has gone far beyond showing up. They have made the ethical and news judgment that Al Sharpton should be a credible news source for Americans.
Boy, the Daily Beast gets credit for laying out all the facts, and then goes all Fox Butterfield on the conclusion. What if NBS isn’t “one of the great American news organizations”, and what if Sharpton’s disgraceful presence on their airwaves is just proof (more proof, as if Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and Andrea Mitchell weren’t enough)?
Even more, what if a lot of the other “great American news organizations” aren’t so great either, the New York Times first (or least) among them? Not only today, with its abdication of impartiality in favor of hyper-partisanship, but over decades—just ask Walter Duranty?
Sharpton’s record has been no secret—we’ve written about it dozens of times ourselves. For the Times to have “rediscovered” it, and for the Beast to be so exercised over it, strikes us as pretty weak stuff. We all know who Sharpton is; there is no news or scandal here. The only scandal is how anyone could think such a reprobate should be embraced to the bosom of the American Left and attached to the heart of the Democrat Party.
But there you go.