Rethinking Al Sharpton…
Tony Norman in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes about rethinking Al Sharpton…
My references to Rev. Al over the years have ranged from disparaging to contemptuous. Long before the Crown Heights riot, the Freddie’s Fashion Mart fiasco or the 1998 Million Youth March in Harlem in which he shared the stage with the diabolical Khalid Abdul Muhammad minutes before that late demagogue exhorted the crowd to attack the cops, I’d written off Rev. Al as someone who was beyond redemption.
I mocked his senatorial and presidential bids while using his name as shorthand for the least imaginative brand of race hustling. Even though he’d undergone a remarkable metamorphosis over the years, my depictions didn’t keep pace. Until very recently, Rev. Al was always somewhat suspect in this column.
When MSNBC unveiled “Politics Nation with Al Sharpton” last year, it looked like the worst kind of pandering to lure black viewers. I cringed when he mangled the names of his guests or appeared incapable of reading a script in a teleprompter without stumbling. As formidable a debater as he’d proven himself as a guest, he was not a seasoned enough journalist to host his own show or conduct a decent interview. Every day at 6 p.m. was destined to be amateur hour on MSNBC until the powers-that-be got around to quietly replacing Rev. Al with a “real” journalist.
Then a funny thing happened. I never got around to writing that scathing review. Suddenly, Rev. Al began pronouncing his guests’ names correctly and his interviews got better. Although he still isn’t as polished a teleprompter reader as his colleagues, “Politics Nation” is among the boldest and most interesting shows on MSNBC.
Rev. Al isn’t afraid of raising his voice or mixing it up. He’s also a surprisingly nimble debater when he clashes with conservative Joe Scarborough on those mornings when no one else will take him on. What makes him a rarity is his consistency in voicing unflagging support for the poor and the powerless. He’s not a limousine liberal like I suspect many of the progressives are on that network. Rev. Al hasn’t stopped marching just because he has a program on MSNBC.