read more: Boston Herald

[password]When is it fair to judge a man by the company he keeps?

Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama spoke at a meeting of the National Action Network, embracing the Rev. Al Sharpton (NAN’s founder) warmly and speaking of him as an old friend.

Today, many young people think of Sharpton as a debonair “civil rights activist.”

But those of us over 40 remember Sharpton as a slovenly street huckster with a history of unscrupulous finances and a toxic past that no president should legitimize.

Indeed, we cannot forget Freddie’s Fashion Mart, where Sharpton recklessly incited anti-Semitic violence over the proposed eviction of a black-owned subtenant by a Jewish shop owner. Caught up in the hatred unleashed by Sharpton, one protester opened fire on store customers and lit the place on fire, killing seven.

Nor can we forget Sharpton’s poisonous role in the Tawana Brawley matter.

Brawley was the teenage girl who, manipulated by Sharpton, brought New York to the brink of riots by falsely claiming to have been kidnapped and sexually abused by a gang of white racists.

Witnesses swore that they had seen Brawley at various parties during the time she had been “missing,” and it is widely believed that Brawley told her fanciful tale to avoid punishment from her mother’s abusive boyfriend.

But Sharpton was not concerned with facts. “We’re building a movement,” he reportedly told an adviser, and “this is the perfect issue.”

Indeed, for almost a year, Sharpton spun an ever-expanding web of lies, falsely accusing police officers and prosecutors of having participated in the assault, and attacking as racist anyone who dared to question the story.

One of those targeted by Sharpton was Mike Taibbi, a former Boston TV reporter, then working for WCBS-Channel 2 in New York.

That summer (1988) I was an intern in the political division of the CBS News network, directly across the street from the affiliate where Taibbi worked. Before e-mail and document sharing, interns were glorified messengers, and one of my tasks was to deliver various documents from the network to the affiliate across the street.

At that time, Sharpton had begun to protest the station’s coverage of the Brawley matter. And so, as I crossed the street, I was forced to confront bull-horned picketers shouting “Justice for Tawana” and “Mad Dog Mike!” There was Sharpton, in trademark jogging suit and bouffant hairdo, yelling and calling me a racist for entering the building. And once, as I passed, a protester (I was sure it was “The Rev”), even spat at me. (Classy guy.)

Ultimately, Brawley’s story was revealed to be a hoax. And Sharpton was hit with a defamation judgment for his claims about particular police officers and prosecutors in the Brawley matter. Yet Sharpton remains unrepentant, continuing to stir racial tensions when possible, secure in his belief that the ends justify his means.

So why did Obama embrace this charlatan with a reputation for inciting violence, dodging the IRS and slandering innocent people?

Because the president is in political trouble. The left is angry with him for, among other things: keeping Guantanamo open; not honoring his promise to try terrorists in civil courts; and involving the United States in yet another war.

And so the president hopes that Sharpton can shore up support from African-Americans and younger voters who view Sharpton as a hip, Armani-wearing activist.

Unfortunately for Obama, however, voters over 40 remember Sharpton as a sweatsuit-wearing, lying, provocateur. And they will remember the Obama/Sharpton embrace on election day.


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