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The Prez, the ‘Rev,’ and Us



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I have a suggestion for my colleagues who go on MSNBC: Ask Al Sharpton if he believes that Steven Pagones raped Tawana Brawley. While you’re at it, ask Sharpton’s colleagues — Rachel, Chris, and that gang: Do you think that Steven Pagones raped Brawley? Do you think anyone did? If not, what do you think of Sharpton, and his place in American culture?

I have been thinking about this issue because President Obama gave an interview to Sharpton last week. (I write about this in Impromptus today.) You may not remember who Steven Pagones is: He is the former assistant DA whom Sharpton accused of raping this young woman, Tawana Brawley. Here is an excerpt from a piece I wrote, in 2000, about Sharpton and his “mainstreaming”:

. . . [Pagones] held a press conference, which Sharpton, in his theatrical fashion, attempted to crash. “Your accuser has arrived!” he bellowed. Sharpton had said before, “We stated openly that Steven Pagones did it. 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.” Oddly enough, Pagones did. He spent a decade of his life pursuing a defamation case against Sharpton and his accomplices, finally winning that case one glorious, cleansing day in July of 1998. His life had been a hell — of death threats, illnesses, and assorted other agonies. He said to an interviewer in 1997, “I know that Sharpton doesn’t care how I feel. . . .”

Of course not. Sharpton has never apologized for his evil lies. He says proudly that he never will. He bills himself as a Christian minister, I think. People call him “Reverend” or “Rev.” The president of the United States comes to sit with him. As I say in my column, would the president ever sit with Steven Pagones? How about MSNBC? Have they had him on the air, to tell his story?

I hear Fox News reviled almost everywhere I go, but I’m fairly sure they don’t have a minister, as a regular commentator, who has falsely accused another man of rape and who is proud not to apologize for it.

This country has economic problems, as we well know. But as severe as those problems are now — a $17 trillion debt and all — I don’t believe our worst problems are economic. We seem to be living in a post-moral society, with the “Reverend” a smiling symbol of it. If you want to see him and our president smiling together, try Google images, and try to hold your lunch.

One more thing: In 2004, the Democrats’ presidential nominee, now our secretary of state, John Kerry, had this to say: “During the primaries, there was one person who consistently was always there, keeping the peace and the compass going in the right direction, and that was Al Sharpton.” I will buy the idea of Sharpton as compass: pointing downward, downward.

By the way, Kerry is a smooth one, isn’t he? “Consistently was always there.” Is there anything a St. Paul’s and Yale education can’t do?



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