Does history matter?
Should past actions/statements be used against someone?
If the answer to those questions is YES, then we must also ask:
Should MSNBC fire Al Sharpton for making (well documented) racially insulting and insensitive comments in public?
Consider just these three clips. (Earlier this week, SiriusXM satellite radio hosts Opie & Anthony played these three pieces of Sharpton audio.)
Clip #1 is from a 1994 Sharpton speech at Kean College:
Clip #2 features Sharpton, talking about then-Mayor David Dinkins (reportedly recorded in Harlem):
Clip #3 (also reported to have come from a Sharpton event in Harlem) features Al trying to discourage people from buying fried chicken from Chinese-owned restaurants or watermelon from Korean-owned shops.
All of these audio clips feature Al Sharpton, the full-time employee of MSNBC's 5pm offering "Politics Nation" (and also the star of MSNBC's latest "Lean Forward" promotional campaign).
The first is a relatively well-known comment from a 1994 Sharpton appearance at Kean College where the Rev made some patently offensive statements. Several reports of this event have been written up and posted online, this is the only audio we could find of the controversial remarks;
“White folks was [sic] in caves while we was building empires.... We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.”
Salon's Jake Tapper noted in 2003 that Sharpton was called out for the remark by The Forward and responded by saying:
“Homo is not a homophobic term, but I think even the reference is irresponsible and I don’t do that any longer.”
Curiously, when Imus appeared on Sharpton's radio show and apologized for his insensitive remarks, vowing to never make comments like that in the future, he was still driven from his job thanks to the massive pressure placed on sponsors by Sharpton and others.
In May of 2002, during an appearance on CNN's Crossfire, at first Sharpton seems to be trying deny that he made the offensive remark. Here is a transcript from the show with Tucker Carlson and James Carville talking to Sharpton about another run for the White House;
CARVILLE: Well, I hope you do decide, Al Sharpton, because you look great, by the way. I hope you run as a Democrat, I look forward to covering you. I look forward to covering your speeches. And I hope you give speeches like. This is a speech you gave in 1992 early at Keane University in New Jersey. This is one of my favorite Al Sharpton quotes. "White folks was in the cave when we built empires. We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and then Greeks homos ever got around to it." If you run, speeches like that?
SHARPTON: Well first of all, if I made the speech, first of all...
CARLSON: If you made the speech? You did you make the speech.
SHARPTON: Well, you're reading your card. Doesn't mean...
CARLSON: That was in "The New York -- did you not say that?
SHARPTON: Am I allowed to respond?
CARLSON: Yes, sir.
SHARPTON: Tonight? All right. Thank you, sir. So...
CARLSON: Tell me about them Greek homos.
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I think that clearly, if you look at my record with the gay and lesbian communities, you can never try to accuse me of dealing in any homophobic...
CARLSON: And I'm just quoting you. "Them Greek homos..."
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I don't know that you're quoting me properly or not. But let's talk about the issue of homosexuality. Let's talk about how many Republicans are not dealing with the problems that we're even facing today with fellow churchmen of mine, who are trying to act as if homosexuals are the cause, rather than pedophiles are the cause.
Sharpton's initial instinct is to deny that the offensive words came from his mouth. Then he tries to create confusion or doubt about it. And finally he takes the discussion another direction. In three sentences he manages to deny or cast doubt on the statement, and then completely change the direction of the discussion.
This was not the first time Sharpton used pejorative terms to describe gay people. During an appearance on the old Morton Downey Jr. Show, Sharpton called someone a "punk faggot."
David Horowitz of The Freedom Center recalled the same moment and wondered why Sharpton still has a job. Horowitz compares the Sharpton gay insult to a similar comment that cost director Brett Ratner his job on the Oscars telecast.
While I cannot say that I have personally discussed the topic of homosexuality or gay rights with Mr. Sharpton, it seems as if the gay community has accepted his apologies. Earlier this year, Sharpton was a presenter at the GLAAD Awards, introducing Russell Simmons as the winner of the "Excellence In Media" award.
In 2007, right after the Imus firings, Mr. Sharpton made the following statement:
"No one, even in the name of creativity, should enjoy a large consumer base when they denigrate people based on race."
Of course that prepared statement was made to the media in a public performance, delivered by Sharpton following the dismissal of Don Imus in the wake of the Rutgers women's basketball team scandal. But if he believes in the statement, should Al Sharpton be held to the same standard that he forced on Imus, CBS and his current employer, MSNBC?
In 2007, following racially insensitive and insulting comments made by Don Imus, Al Sharpton lead the charge to have Don Imus fired from his syndicated radio program and the simulcast version of the show seen on MSNBC for 11 years. The former presidential candidate and leader of the National Action Network, successfully lobbied large companies like American Express, General Motors, Proctor and Gamble and Staples, convincing them to pull advertising from the cable network until Imus was fired.
Although Imus apologized publicly and privately to Sharpton, the issue was not one that was going to quickly fade away. Sharpton and Jesse Jackson pushed both NBC and CBS Radio to fire Imus. And eventually that happened.
A key element in Sharpton's argument for Imus' firing was a claim that this was not an isolated incident. Could not the same argument be brought up in the case of Sharpton? In just three clips played here, Mr. Sharpton, the man chosen to host an hour of television each day on the NBC cable news outlet, is heard calling the Mayor of New York a "n***er" and a "whore" while Greek people are referred to as "homos."
Share your opinion... Are the hateful words spoken in the past by Sharpton "fair game" today?