Al Sharpton Confronted on Whether He Stands by Brawley Case: ‘I Stand by Many Cases’

Al Sharpton was confronted by a reporter in Los Angeles on Thursday and asked whether he stands by his involvement in the controversial Tawana Brawley case. His answer? Mixed.

In short, Sharpton tried to wordsmith his way out of answering.

After addressing Sharpton’s involvement in the Crown Heights riots, reporter Christian Hartsock asked, “And in your role in the Tawana Brawley case –”

“Yes, I stood by her,” Sharpton interrupted, using the past tense. “And there was no violence.”

“You stand by the case?” Hartsock asked in clarification.

He responded, “I stand by many cases,” before rattling off the names of cases he has “won.”

See for yourself:

The Brawley case involved a 15-year-old girl who said she was raped by several white men in 1987. At the time, Sharpton became a champion for the accusations, and eventually claimed a local prosecutor (Steve Pagones) was involved in the assault. The charges were eventually found to be false after a bodyguard for Brawley’s lawyers came forward and said Sharpton and others knew the girls was lying. Pagones then sued Sharpton for libel and won. Sharpton was ordered to pay Pagones $65,000 as a result. Supporters eventually paid the tab.

The answers Sharpton gave on Thursday are noteworthy, but it might not be the new smoking gun that some are hoping for as Sharpton continues to stir up emotions in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case. Sharpton has made comments in the past, however, that show he has little remorse for what happened. Slate explained back in 2003:

Sharpton stands by Brawley’s story. In May 2002, when the Associated Press asked whether he would apologize to Pagones, Sharpton replied: “Apologize for what? For believing a young lady?” Referring to his incipient presidential campaign, Sharpton continued, “When people around the country know that I stood up for a young lady … I think it will help me.” In March 2003, when the Washington Post asked whether Sharpton could have expressed sympathy for Pagones after the prosecutor was cleared, Sharpton replied that Brawley “identified Pagones. I was her spokesperson. I cannot turn around in what I said I believed.” As to the jury verdict against him, Sharpton told the New York Daily News in July 2003 that “a jury said in the Central Park jogging case … that I was wrong, and it was just overturned 13 years later. Juries can be wrong. I’ve stood by what I believe. Juries are proven wrong every day.”

And as recent as last year, the reverend wasn’t backing down:

Still, as Hartsock says, Sharpton’s claim that he wasn’t involved in the Crown Heights riots is an odd one:

Sharpton didn’t get his facts right. The Crown Heights riots occurred after young black New Yorker Gavin Cato was hit by a car driven by an Orthodox Jew. Sharpton spoke at the funeral. Here’s what he said:

“Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. The issue is not anti-Semitism; the issue is apartheid …. All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no coffee klatsch, no skinnin’ and grinnin’.”

Later, Sharpton said, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” The riots resulted in the murder of an Orthodox Jew, Yankel Rosenbaum. As Rosenbaum’s brother wrote, “Based on everything we have seen and read, Sharpton never called upon the rioters to stop their anti-Semitism-inspired violence. He never called on the rioters to go home. To the contrary, he stirred them up. And three days of anti-Semitic violence became the Crown Heights riots.”

“And this is the Al Sharpton hired by Phil Griffin to lend gravitas to MSNBC’s evening lineup,” Hartsock concludes.