Does Al Sharpton run MSNBC now? On Saturday, the cable network broadcast hours of live coverage of the Sharpton-organized 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. When Sharpton prepared for his keynote speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, his friend Rev. Franklyn Richardson singled him out as “the one who has become the voice of this era.” They broadcast Sharpton’s entire 20-minute speech live.
When he was finished on stage, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Michael Eric Dyson formed a hallelujah chorus, all praising Sharpton in the same glowing light as the "peerless" and "pre-eminent" civil rights leader of our time, like he was paying everyone’s salary:
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now for ongoing coverage of today's events is MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, host of The Ed Show. So nice to have you.
SCHULTZ: A fabulous last hour. A number of different speeches. There's no doubt that Reverend Sharpton is the contemporary civil rights leader of our time.
HARRIS-PERRY: He is peerless.
SCHULTZ: I thought his recognition of Rev. Jesse Jackson was so profound and so terribly important for the generational uniting of the efforts in moving forward. A new America was the theme Reverend Sharpton stepped forward with. He’s a man who has lived the fight. He's a man of very strong conviction. He's a man who believes in a new America and equality for all. And he's man with a very unique platform in a social media with a television show, with the National Action Network, with the social following that he has and the very tremendous importance that rests on his shoulders for the black community in this country, and communities that want to move forward in this country.
And he talked about unity, which I thought was so terribly important. He talked about it’s just not about the black people of america, it's about all people, and it’s about moving our Constitution and living by it, and moving our society forward.. And I thought that Reverend Al Sharpton was at his best today. No question about it. He was of course, one of the organizers of this march in recognizing the importance of it and moving it and passing the torch to the next generation of a challenge that has to be marked.
It’s pretty funny that Sharpton is the civil rights leader of our time because Comcast gave him a daily show on MSNBC that makes him uniquely influential. The leader of black America was selected by Comcast? Then Harris-Perry turned to Michael Eric Dyson, the professor from that Catholic college Georgetown University:
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to start with you, Michael, because Reverend Sharpton chose a very different biblical passage in his conversation today. Martin Luther King Jr. referred to the great prophet, Amos. But today Reverend Sharpton drew from Revelation. This idea of a new heaven, a new earth and a new country. Reflect on that for me.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Well, what Reverend Sharpton did today was magnificent. First of all, he concentrated his remarks about the broad landscape of American political culture. Then he drew in to chide with love but criticism, African-American people and then said in the words of Barbara Christian let's not have an oppression derby. Let's not compare one form of suffering to another. And then by choosing John the Baptist [sic] on the isle of Patmos, he does two things brilliantly.
Insert ancient needle-scratching-on-record sound here. A professor who is knowledgeable about the Bible should not be confusing John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, with John the beloved apostle of Jesus, who was exiled to Patmos. In Dyson’s terms, it’s a little like confusing the rappers Ice Cube and Ice-T. Now back to the goo:
DYSON: First he reflects upon the revelation directly from God to the prophet. but revelation is also a veiled critique of the broader culture. So what Reverend Sharpton was doing was using the prophetic push of the isle of Patmos in Revelation to link generations, to talk about both understanding who God is in Revelation, but also a critique of the broader society. Today Reverend Sharpton emerged as the preeminent leader of his generation, bar none!
HARRIS-PERRY: I think that’s clear. Reverend Sharpton for me walks away from this moment peerless.
DYSON: Without question. Because every leader of African-American culture from A. Philip Randolph to Martin Luther King, Jr., to Minister Louis Farrakhan, but now leading this march here, along with the hundreds of thousands, of millions of African-Americans, women and children, he's done an incredible thing!
Dyson was also over-excited about Sharpton bowing briefly to Rev. Jesse Jackson in his speech:
SCHULTZ: Dr. Dyson, What about his connection to Reverend Jackson? How important was that today? What did it signal? And how is it accepteed? Encapsulize what we saw.
DYSON: Let me tell you how big the spirit of Rev. Al Sharpton is. There's no secret there's been some grumbling and tension generationally between reverend jackson and reverend sharpton. As Nas said about Biggie and Tupac, the people at the top clash. But here’s the problem. Reverend Sharpton put an end to be any sense that he would not pay hommage to the man who made him possible and a lot of people have forgotten Reverend Jesse Jackson, don't understand how he held us together in an extraordinary vast wilderness after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. And Reverend Sharpton restored him to his just recognition. It was a magnificent gesture.
These three sounded just like Sharpton’s buddy Reverend Richardson in his introduction:
Today it is my privilege to present our keynote speaker, the one who has become the voice of this era. For the last 40 years the Reverend Al Sharpton has been evolving as a great and stirring leader shaped by these times to lead us into this era. He has sacrificed his life, his body. He’s taken attacks. He's been mistreated, misunderstood, but thanks be to God, he has been persistent. He has never given up. He's always been a voice for the voiceless. He's always aligned with the marginalized. He’s always represented the hurting and he’s always been a voice for justice.
Sharpton’s MSNBC show started two years ago, on August 29, 2011 – and in March of 2011, his buddy Franklyn Richardson was appointed by Comcast to their Joint Diversity Council.