"Meet the Press" host David Gregory asked his panel "where civility has gone in our public discourse." Incredibly, one panelist urged people to be more "mature" and not "poison the atmosphere."
I say "incredibly" because this panelist was none other than the race-hustling, anti-Semitic "civil rights activist" and MSNBC talk show host, Al Sharpton. For some reason, Sharpton's own struggles with civility never came up. Nor did any panelist behave so rudely as to bring up Sharpton's role in one of the most hideous, disgusting and cynical uses of the race card this side of the O.J. Simpson case. And Sharpton, unlike Rush Limbaugh, refuses to apologize.
While this raises little or no concern to MSNBC or its advertisers, Sharpton became famous by falsely accusing a white man of raping a black teenage girl. Tawana Brawley, then 15, told authorities that white racists abducted, raped and sodomized her — scrawling the initials "KKK" on her in human feces.
A grand jury later found the entire incident a complete hoax. This did not stop the Rev. Al Sharpton, who had accused Steven Pagones, then an assistant district attorney in Duchess County, N.Y., of the crime. After Sharpton's accusation, Pagones received death threats, and his young daughter was later threatened.
"We stated openly that Steven Pagones did it," said Sharpton. "If we're lying, sue us, so we can go into court with you and prove you did it. Sue us — sue us right now."
Pagones did sue.
A jury unanimously concluded that Sharpton defamed Pagones, ordering Sharpton to pay him $65,000. The Reverend promptly and publicly said he did not intend to pay. Later, when Sharpton decided to run for president, the outstanding defamation debt became a political problem. So Sharpton's one-percenter buddies passed the hat and paid off his debt, which by then totaled $87,000 with interest and penalties.
Civility, Rev. Al? In 1989, a young white woman, dubbed the "Central Park jogger," was monstrously raped and nearly beaten to death. Sharpton insisted — despite the defendants' confessions — that her black attacker-suspects were innocent, modern-day Scottsboro Boys trapped in "a fit of racial hysteria." Sharpton charged that the jogger's boyfriend did it and organized protests outside the courthouse, chanting, "The boyfriend did it!" and denouncing the victim as a "whore!"
Sharpton appealed for a psychiatrist to examine the victim, generously saying: "It doesn't even have to be a black psychiatrist. ... We're not endorsing the damage to the girl — if there was this damage." (The convictions of the accused were eventually vacated, despite their taped confessions, after another man — whose DNA matched — confessed to the rape in 2002.)
Civility, Rev. Al? Sharpton once called former Marine, magna cum laude graduate, lawyer, professor and then-Mayor David Dinkins — New York City's first and only black mayor — a "n—ger whore turning tricks in City Hall."
Civility, Rev. Al? In 1991, when a 7-year-old black child was accidentally killed in Crown Heights after a car driven by a Hasidic Jew went out of control, Sharpton led 400 protesters through the Jewish neighborhood. There were four nights of rock and bottle throwing. A young Talmudic scholar was surrounded by a mob shouting, "Kill the Jew," and stabbed to death. After deriding Jews as "diamond merchants," Sharpton said, "If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house."
Civility, Rev. Al? The Jewish owner of Freddy's Fashion Mart in Harlem raised the rent on a black sub-tenant. At one of the many rallies designed to frighten the owner, Sharpton called him a "white interloper." Following a demonstration three months later, one of the protestors, a black man, stormed Freddy's Fashion Mart with a pistol, screaming: "It's on now! All blacks out!" In addition to shooting, he set fire to the building, eventually killing himself and seven others.
Initially, Sharpton denied having spoken at any rallies and refused to accept any responsibility for poisoning the atmosphere. When tapes surfaced showing Sharpton speaking, he said, "What's wrong with denouncing white interlopers?" Eventually, he apologized — for saying "white," but not for saying "interloper."
Sharpton refuses to apologize for Tawana Brawley. He assumes liberal bias will prevent the media from asking him about Brawley. Or, he will accuse them of racism if they do: "I did what I believed. ... They are asking me to grovel. They want black children to say they forced a black man coming out of the hardcore ghetto to his knees. ... Once you begin bending, it's, 'Did you bend today?' or: 'I missed the apology. Say it again.' Once you start compromising, you lose respect for yourself."
In other words, falsely and unapologetically accusing a white man of raping a black teenage girl is no barrier to hosting a talk show on MSNBC or lecturing the nation on civility.
Rush Limbaugh twice apologized to the Georgetown law student for calling her a slut. Sharpton has never apologized for calling Steven Pagones a rapist.
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.