The Reverend Al Sharpton participated in the Tawana Brawley hoax, back in 1987, in which a black girl made false and damaging charges of rape against a group of white men. Sharpton was found guilty of defamation and ordered to pay a financial fine in that case. None of that, of course, stopped him from becoming a media darling of sorts during the recent presidential campaign, when he ran for the Democratic nomination. He is usually labeled a “colorful character” and his past is forgotten and forgiven because he says quotable things. He even appeared on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, where he sang and danced.
On November 28, he was back, this time appearing with a group of religious leaders on NBC’s Meet the Press to talk about moral values. Sharpton said that we shouldn’t “impose what we believe on people that may disagree with us.” Unknown perhaps to Russert and the others on the show, Sharpton had allegedly imposed his own moral values–or lack thereof–on his wife and family, leading to an alleged extramarital affair and a messy divorce. The Village Voice said that, “While it is virtually impossible to establish that an intimate relationship existed without confirmation from a party, a compelling case can be made that Sharpton appeared to engage in one with Marjorie Harris (also known as Marjorie Fields-Harris), the executive director of his National Action Network and the woman named in two Daily News gossip pieces.”
Sharpton has denied having an affair, but black columnist Errol Louis of the New York Daily News notes that “both split from their spouses around the same time and traveled around the country together during Sharpton’s presidential campaign. Louis was intrigued by the report that Harris “lives in a swanky Trump Place apartment and sports top-drawer toys like a Mercedes, a mink coat and a $7,000 Rolex.”
Ironically, the Village Voice claimed that Sharpton revealed in 2001 that Rev. Jesse Jackson was involved in an extramarital affair and had an illegitimate child. Jackson was discredited, at least for a while, enabling Sharpton to emerge as a national black spokesman, with enormous access to the national media.
Last May, the Federal Election Commission ordered Sharpton to return $100,000 that he had received in federal matching funds for his presidential campaign. The ruling was in response to a complaint filed by the National Legal and Policy Center, which had noted “massive irregularities in the financing of his campaign.”
Those irregularities apparently continued. The Voice reported that the Democratic National Committee paid Sharpton $86,715 in travel and consulting fees to compensate for his campaigning for John Kerry and other candidates. While most of the money was for travel expenses, Sharpton was paid $35,000 as a “political consulting fee” just 15 days after the election. It looks like he was handsomely paid simply to generate black votes for Kerry. No wonder he doesn’t want to “impose” his values on others. Who would want them? Isn’t it time for the media to follow the lead of the Village Voice and subject this “reverend” to the scrutiny he deserves?