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Why Didn’t Sharpton Confront Beck When He Likened Tea Party Protesters To Martin Luther King?

Reported by Ellen - April 12, 2010 -

Rev. Al Sharpton visited Glenn Beck’s Fox News television show last week (4/7/10) to discuss the divisions in America. Sharpton, who was so vocal about unseating Don Imus from his NBC job after making the “nappy headed hos” comments, gave Beck a complete pass on his far-worse comment that President Obama is “a racist” with “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” Beck’s record is littered with even more hideously divisive comments about an assortment of other people he has used as foils for his hate-mongering histrionics. Yet Sharpton allowed Beck to pose as someone with just an honest disagreement on policy. Sharpton even failed to challenge Beck's outlandish comparison of tea party protesters to Martin Luther King With video.

I’m all for sitting down with political opponents and hashing out areas of agreement, especially in today’s political climate. But Beck did not offer a scintilla of evidence that he had any real interest in fostering harmony or understanding. Rather, it all indicated Beck was using the segment as a platform to make himself look good.

First, Beck, who has lost dozens of advertisers in the wake of his racial comments about President Obama, made a show at burnishing up his racial bona fides by suggesting he and Sharpton were on the same page with regard to some racial issues. “You and I disagreed when the Imus thing was happening,” Beck began. But before Sharpton could say anything about Imus, Beck quickly changed the subject. “I said, ‘Where are you on rap music and you said, ‘I’ll go and march for rap music’ (and if you ask me, Beck was imitating a black person’s stereotypical way of talking). And I said, ‘You do that, and I’d be standing next to you.’ You know I don’t agree with boycotts but I walked with you because… we united on principles.”

Well, maybe so. But Beck is known for his racial divisiveness including, for example, his race-based attacks on former Obama advisor Van Jones and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, all in an obvious attempt to add a racial tinge to his continued attacks on Obama. Beck offered no regrets for such tactics nor did he demonstrate any interest in changing them. Instead, he seemed to want to keep on keeping on by posturing as a uniter and asking whether the principles of faith, hope and charity, which just happen to be recurring themes already on Beck’s shows, “could unite America?”

This would have been a perfect moment for Sharpton to confront Beck on his tactics and at least challenge the idea that so much of what Beck does is not designed to “unite America.”

Instead, Sharpton said, “I agree.” He continued by saying that “Some may need more charity than others. Some may need more hope than others.” Which is fine as far as it went, but it allowed Beck to continue his disingenuous, “We-just-have-honest-differences-of-opinion” framing that just happened to help sanitize his dirty attacks.

Beck even went so far as to say that Tea Partiers “kind of feel, I think, in some ways, like Martin Luther King or those people that stood up and said, ‘I believe this to be true.’”

Martin Luther never used the kind of violent, inflammatory rhetoric that is Beck’s stock and trade. Nor did King supporters use the kind of race-baiting signs that have been seen at tea party protests. but not even that ridiculous comparison was enough to rile Sharpton into confronting Beck.

Instead, Sharpton, said, “When I look at some of the tea parties, who I disagree with vehemently, but I defend their rights to express themselves but I would also say to them, ‘Now, do you understand why some of us expressed the outrage we felt?’”

Beck said, “Absolutely.”

Sharpton continued, “What I’m saying is, that you have the right to express yourself even though you and I may not agree on anything. I have the right to express myself. Now, once we get through the expressing, do we really move forward in society and make it fair? And that’s where I think we’ve got to argue out the techniques.”

Once again, I applaud the sentiment. But with someone like Beck, it’s all about the techniques. Sharpton’s decision to leave them sitting on the table like that, pretending they were a mere technical difference, is unfathomable.

Not only that, it allowed Beck to equate himself with the far more moderate and mainstream Sharpton. Last I heard, Sharpton never used anything like the kind of violent rhetoric that Beck favors. Furthermore, when he's not talking about honest disagreements, Beck holds himself up as an entertainer, not a political animal. I doubt Sharpton would ever say such a thing about himself.

Beck slyly suggested that he was only trying to do something to bring about positive changes in our country. He said, “I think if we come to the table with faith, hope and charity, even people as different as you and I on policies – if we’re honest brokers can make a difference.”

What difference is Beck trying to make with language such as, “Get out of your church” if you hear someone preaching social justice, or that the Obama administration, in its discussions about health care reform, is “using a baseball bat. It’s the full force and power of the presidency of the United States. You’re sitting around that table (with the administration)... And then you can say, ‘Which one’s gonna get whacked?’ You can sit there and you can live in fear or you can stand up and say, ‘Enough of your bat.’ I warn ya. That means that some people are gonna get whacked.” Or when he named Rep. Charles Rangel as someone he'd like to "beat to death with a shovel?"

Again, Sharpton either missed or overlooked Beck's disingenuousness and took Beck’s bait. Sharpton agreed honest brokers can make a difference and only added that he’d want some more diverse figures than Sam Adams, Ben Franklin and George Washington to serve as icons for “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Charity.”

Sharpton has also given Sean Hannity passes on his race-baiting. Has Sharpton traded his principles for Fox News airtime? Does he not understand how such appearances help legitimize the racial messages on Fox News?

Unlike many on my side, I vehemently believe that liberals should appear on Fox News. But they must do so with a savvy understanding that they are characters in Fox News' political theater and then use their roles to write the script to their best advantage. Does Sharpton believe that he did something productive for his own side during these appearances? I report, you decide.