Racy Rev: MSNBC’s Sharpton Mentions Race 215 Times in ’13

Give Al Sharpton credit: whatever else he’s done – the Tawana Brawley hoax, his inciting deadly violence in the Crown Heights Riots and the Freddy’s Fashion Mart incident, possible money laundering, and more – he’s given MSNBC its money’s worth. 

Look, you don’t hire Sharpton for his razor-sharp statistical analysis, his hard-won understanding of the burdens of governing, or his deep acquaintance with history and philosophy. And although he’s apparently a real hoot as the Nutty Professor in a lab coat explaining what he doesn’t know about global warming, race is the erstwhile “reverend’s” bread and butter. And he does not disappoint. 

Sharpton said “race,” “racism” or “racist” 215 times in 2013 during his MSNBC show, “Politics Nation.” From opposition to the Obama agenda to guns and even into fashion and food, Sharpton’s finely tuned nose for racism rarely took a day off last year. Story contiues after video.

A typical example from Nov. 15: Complaining about Republican attacks against President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder (or, as pundit Angela Rye said to Sharpton, “the first African-American president” and “the first African-American attorney general”), Sharpton raged over race and “this constant using of analogies with slavery.” Sharpton used “race” five times in one paragraph:

And slavery in the context of American history is all about race. That was what you -- that`s what made you a slave was your race. You can`t say I`m going to talk about slavery but don`t bring up race, because that was the basis of slavery. And they keep comparing everything slavery, slavery, slavery. I mean, all of these connotations are all kind of race based, and referencing race. 

On Sept. 4, that, Sharpton scoffed at an assertion by Rush Limbaugh (the “head of the Republican party” in Sharpton’s world) that conservatives feared criticizing any African-American lest they be called racist. 

But the next month, when a Confederate flag was seen at a Tea Party rally, Sharpton pounced. On Oct. 14, he sputtered “how outrageous is this tea party kind of rally and things where you have these ugly symbols that are not only racist, but they are un-American.” The Confederate flag, he said, represents the breakdown of this country killing of thousands of people over race and slavery and breaking the union of this country.” 

When Sharpton asked, “How could any elected official identify with that and call himself a patriot?” Joan Walsh, editor-at-large for Salon.com, corrected him by noting that none at the rally identified “specifically” with the flag. Sharpton continued, however, to complain how participants, “did not denounce the flag.”

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He was right. They didn’t, perhaps because it never occurred to them that calling for fiscal responsibility and adherence to the Constitution rose to the level of “killing of thousands of people over race and slavery and breaking the union of this country.” Or maybe they’re just not paid to scream “racism!” 

Sharpton proved his ability to find race in all things – including food and fashion. On Sept. 9, Sharpton invited Vogue Contributing Editor Andre Leon Talley to discuss racism in fashion. Earlier in the year, on March 8, he turned to food by asking Michael Moss, author of “Salt Sugar Fat,” to digest how the food industry targets consumers by race. 

On more substantive but no less idiotic notes, Sharpton, participated in a MSNBC panel that likened pro-gun sheriffs to segregationists and the Tea Party’s foundation to racism to joining the MSNBC team “still fighting the civil war.” 

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And to a man in a borrowed suit whose makes his living stirring racial animosity, every installment of his show is a chance to pound political opponents for what he calls bigotry.

Katie Yoder
Katie Yoder
Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media at the Media Research Center