Is Daily News Story on Slave Roots Sharpton's Presidential Campaign Kick Off?

Is it just coincidence that a story has appeared touting the fact that Al Sharpton is the descendant of slaves, ones owned by relatives of Strom Thurmond to boot? Or could this be the unofficial kick-off of the Sharpton presidential campaign, with a major boost from the reverend's hometown newspaper?

Let's put these three stories together:

On January 17, a story appears reporting: "civil rights activist Al Sharpton said Monday he is seriously considering a run for president. " And why is Sharpton running? "If we're talking about the urban agenda, can you tell me anybody else in the field who's representing that right now?" Translation: Obama might be preparing to announce, but he's not addressing African-American issues.

Three weeks later, on the day Barack Obama announces his candidacy, a story appears in which Al Sharpton declares “just because you’re our color doesn’t make you our kind.” Translation: Barack Obama is not an authentic African-American.

And now, just two weeks after Obama's announcement, a story bursts out of the Daily News declaring that Sharpton's ancestors were slaves owned by relatives of Strom Thurmond.

Now, what better way to focus on the distinction between you and Barack Obama than a national story underlining the fact that you are a descendant of slaves, which Obama, as the son of a Kenyan, is pointedly not?

Note that the Daily News story mentions that "for the better part of two weeks, a team of genealogists - led by Megan Smolenyak, an ancestry scholar who has written four books and was the lead researcher for the PBS "Ancestors" series - unpeeled the layers of Sharpton's family tree. The Daily News gave him [Sharpton] the opportunity to explore his family's history with the help of a team of experts from Ancestry.com - a company that has archived more than 5 billion documents around the world and has 55 million additional pieces of data dedicated to African-American ancestry. and that "a team of some of the country's most trusted genealogists spent two weeks examining Sharpton's family background."

Reading between the lines, it seems likely that there was an intersection of interests here. Ancestry.com wanted some publicity, the Daily News wanted a big story, and for purposes of launching his presidential campaign, Al Sharpton wanted something that not only put him in the limelight, but focused attention on his roots of slavery, making him, in his own words, one of "our kind," akin to millions of other African-Americans and distinct from Barack Obama.

And so the Daily News commissioned Ancestry.com to undertake the research. Did the News pay Ancestry.com, or did the company offer its services free of charge as part of its self-promotional campaign? And what better subject for its research than Sharpton? Was the story really the shock that Sharpton has made it out to be, or did he cooperate with the research? And what reason was there to undertake this now? After all, nothing could be less surprising than the fact that Sharpton, like virtually all African-Americans, is the descendant of slaves? Of course the fact that Sharpton's ancestors might have been owned by relatives of Strom Thurmond is icing on the publicity cake.

It all came together in this Daily News story. I'd say that's what's really going on here. Look for the Reverend Al to announce his candidacy before long.

Aside: Have a look at the image of the front-page of this morning's Daily News. You'll see Sharpton holding up yesterday's paper. Two front-page stories in a row, in what is sure to be a continuing series as Al explores his roots, the Thurmond family's reaction is obtained, etc. Does it get any better than this for Al?

Contact Mark at mark@gunhill.net

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.