On Monday's American Morning, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien stuck up for the Reverands Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. In the first report of her "Uncovering America" series O'Brien poses the question, do Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson speak for the African American community? O’Brien offered a puff piece on the two reverends and no voice on their critics. In a question to Sharpton, she even implied his critics, particularly his African-American critics, are hypocrites.
Soledad O’Brien: "A number of people have said, Al Sharpton, you know what, I’m black he does not represent my views. He doesn’t represent a lot of black America, but if I get shot, I’m going to call him."
Sharpton responded to the charges of "ambulance chasing" when he stated, "in many ways we’re the ambulance. People know we’ll come when the ambulance won’t come." Throughout this love piece, O’Brien did not ask if he had any regrets, particularly his remarks and actions in the Duke lacrosse rape case.
Other than Sharpton and Jackson, the only voices on this piece included Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Bruce Gordon of the NAACP, both of whom are ideologically similar to the two reverends. Waters blamed the media for not turning to other black leaders, presumably of the same political persuasion, and Bart Gordon called the media "lazy." The entire transcript is below.
O'BRIEN: "Welcome back to American Morning. Today we're kicking off a network wide look at all American faces and stories, it's called 'Uncovering America.' And we're asking some provocative questions about race and its place in our lives. Beginning with this one, when it comes to African-Americans, do two famous reverends have the first, last, and only word?"
O'BRIEN (voice-over): "A high profile police shooting. Reverend Al Sharpton leads the protest march. A summit to encourage economic development in poor communities, there's Reverend Jesse Jackson. And when the godfather of soul dies, both Sharpton and Jackson preached to the crowd. Seems like they're everywhere. There will be people who might think watching TV that you and Jesse Jackson are the only black leaders in this country practically. Every time there is an event, a shooting, something to be said, something to respond to the black community, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are there in front of the microphones."
REV. AL SHARPTON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: "Well I think there are those that don't understand that 99 percent of the time they see me if it's a police shooting or if it's corporate discrimination or whatever it is. We are called to come, so you get tagged as the ambulance chaser. In many ways we're the ambulance. People know we'll come when the ambulance won't come."
O'BRIEN: "Sometimes Sharpton and Jackson are the ones being chased. After a profanity-laced tirade, comedian Michael Richards seeks out Jesse Jackson to apologize on his radio show. And when presidential candidate Joe Biden calls fellow Senator Barack Obama articulate and clean, guess who he calls next."
SEN. JOE BIDEN: "I spoke to Barack today."
JON STEWART: "I bet you did."
[ Laughter ]
BIDEN: "I also spoke to Jesse and Al Sharpton."
O'BRIEN: "But do Reverend Sharpton and Reverend Jackson speak for all African-Americans? One lawmaker says if it seems that way, blame the media."
REP MAXINE WATERS: "The media has identified who black leadership is. They go to the same people over and over again. They're saying to the American public this is the person who speaks for the black community."
BRUCE GORDON, PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: "I think the media is lazy. I think that Al and Jesse are bright, articulate, compelling personalities. They've both run for president, so they've created a presence for themselves, and the media gets lazy and simply picks them because they always have. And they don't choose to cast a wider net."
O'BRIEN: "NAACP President Bruce Gordon says there are plenty of leaders in the black community, but we don't always see them or hear from them."
GORDON: "There are black folks in key leadership positions that influence policy, that influence how the community is ultimately treated or affected, but nobody knows about them."
O'BRIEN: "Jesse Jackson, a former presidential candidate, says he wants to talk about all kinds of issues, but he's often pigeon-holed."
REV. JESSE JACKSON, PRESIDENT, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: "Well no one speaks for everyone. No one would ever refer to a senator as white senator from X state says or white president says, so why call me black leader when my blackness is self-evident? Give me the freedom. Let my voice soar and don't limit my interests, that's reasonable and fair."
O'BRIEN: "The criticism doesn't bother Al Sharpton who says he is going to keep marching whether the cameras are there or not. A number of people have said, Al Sharpton, you know what, I'm black, he does not represent my views. He doesn't represent a lot of black America, but if I get shot, I'm going to call him."
SHARPTON: "You're fighting people. You're confronting people. That makes people uncomfortable. And you understand that going in. You are not going to win the popularity contest, and you're not even going to get your due till probably after you're gone. But if you don't do it, you're not going to open the doors that need to be opened."
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
O'BRIEN: "Tomorrow we take a look at who the next generation of black leadership is from a maverick mayor in one of America's most troubled cities. To the man many people say could the nation's first black president. More all American stories and faces all this week on CNN's special series, 'Uncovering America.' John?"
ROBERTS: "An interesting piece, Soledad."