CNN Brings on Al Sharpton to Forward Idea that Rangel Probe Is Racially Motivated

Don Lemon, CNN Anchor; & Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network | NewsBusters.orgOn Sunday's Newsroom, CNN's Don Lemon conducted a softball interview of the Rev. Al Sharpton and helped him forward the theory that the congressional ethics investigations into Representatives Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters are being conducted because they are black. Lemon also didn't go into much detail as to what the charges against the two were and what were the circumstances of their cases.

The anchor interviewed the liberal minister 12 minutes into the 6 pm Eastern hour. Before introducing Sharpton, Lemon did mention that Congressman Rangel was "accused of violating 13 House Rules" and that the "accusations range from financial wrongdoing to damaging the credibility of Congress," but never mentioned during the segment that the charges mainly involve rental properties the New York representatives owns in his district and in the Dominican Republic. He also noted that Rep. Waters "has chosen to face a House ethics trial related to claims involving federal aid to a bank with ties to both Waters and her husband" but didn't give additional details about that case.

Lemon then set up his topic of discussion with the reverend: "Now, the investigation of such powerful people, like Rangel and Maxine Waters, have a lot of people talking. The reaction in Washington seems to be centered on whether the two House members are guilty or not, but back home, in their respective districts, some of their constituents aren't so sure justice is being done, and some are openly questioning why two high profile African-American House members are coming under such tough scrutiny." He then asked Sharpton, "Do you think that black members are being targeted unfairly by the Ethics Committee?"

Sharpton seemed to hint that this was the case, despite an early qualification:
SHARPTON: Well, I think that we've got to really look at what is going on here, and as people have said to the African-American community, we shouldn't rush to judgment that it's racial, and we shouldn't. They shouldn't rush to judgment that they're guilty, because there's been allegations. You must remember, Don, we heard a lot of allegations around the Illinois governor, Blagojevich, as it related to the only black in the U.S. Senate, Roland Burris. We're at the end of Blagojevich's trial- it's going to the jury- and have heard little of even Burris's name and he said he won't run again. Same with New York Governor David Paterson, one of two black governors- a lot of allegations- he says he's not running again- all of sudden, we find at least one of the major investigations- they find nothing wrong.

So, if you begin to see a pattern of people being called on, being investigated- allegations- they end up [finding] nothing, one would be very naive not to say- well, wait a minute, why should we rush to judgment, particularly when you have Charlie Rangel...who has done so much for his district and the country- and Maxine Waters- and we've already seen two high-profile black leaders hit heavy by the media, and then nothing is there.
Lemon helped the liberal minister forward his theory by his subsequent softball question: "You're from New York. Obviously, Charlie Rangel...you've known him for a long time. You've known David Paterson for a long time. So, you have some insight into this, which is a reason we have you here. So- and everyone says Charlie Rangel, nicest guy you want to meet, but that doesn't mean he didn't do anything unethical....What is being said is that...this committee is using investigation tactics... that are rarely used, and that's why some, including the Congressional Black Caucus, are saying, is this a racist tactic?"

The CNN anchor asked one more softball question during the interview: "We've been talking a lot about race. The President at the Urban League talked about it this week- Shirley Sherrod. There's been a whole lot going on here. Charlie Rangel is among what they call the Harlem 'gang of four,' right? With David Paterson's dad, Basil Paterson, and on and on....What does this mean- and Maxine Waters, we know her history- civil rights movement- all of that. What do these mean? What do these people mean to the black community, and what kind of cloud, if any, does this place over them and the Congressional Black Caucus, if at all?"

Near the end of the segment, Lemon brought up Newsweek's recent cover story on Sharpton, labeled it "very interesting," and asked his guest, "You got a lot of criticism about Tawana Brawley. Do you regret anything? Are there any regrets? Would you- if you could do it all over again, would you change it?"

The relevant transcript of Don Lemon's interview of the Rev. Al Sharpton, starting at the 14 minutes into the 6 pm Eastern hour mark and until just before the 20 minutes into the hour mark:
LEMON: Now, the investigation of such powerful people, like Rangel and Maxine Waters, have a lot of people talking. The reaction in Washington seems to be centered on whether the two House members are guilty or not, but back home, in their respective districts, some of their constituents aren't so sure justice is being done, and some are openly questioning why two high profile African-American House members are coming under such tough scrutiny. So, let's talk about it now.

Reverend Al Sharpton, thank you for joining us.

REV. AL SHARPTON: Thank you.

LEMON: This was fodder this morning on the Sunday talk shows. It's been fodder all weekend for the newspapers. Do you think that black members are being targeted unfairly by the Ethics Committee?

SHARPTON: Well, I think that we've got to really look at what is going on here, and as people have said to the African-American community, we shouldn't rush to judgment that it's racial, and we shouldn't. They shouldn't rush to judgment that they're guilty, because there's been allegations. You must remember, Don, we heard a lot of allegations around the Illinois governor, Blagojevich, as it related to the only black in the U.S. Senate, Roland Burris. We're at the end of Blagojevich's trial- it's going to the jury- and have heard little of even Burris's name and he said he won't run again. Same with New York Governor David Paterson, one of two black governors- a lot of allegations- he says he's not running again- all of sudden, we find at least one of the major investigations- they find nothing wrong.

So, if you begin to see a pattern of people being called on, being investigated- allegations- they end up [finding] nothing, one would be very naive not to say- well, wait a minute, why should we rush to judgment, particularly when you have Charlie Rangel-

LEMON: Let's-

SHARPTON: Who has done so much for his district and the country- and Maxine Waters- and we've already seen two high-profile black leaders hit heavy by the media, and then nothing is there.

LEMON: Reverend- and that's what I want to talk to you about and that's one reason we brought you on because you know both of them very well. You're from New York. Obviously, Charlie Rangel from New York- you've known him for a long time. You've known David Paterson for a long time. So, you have some insight into this, which is a reason we have you here. So- and everyone says Charlie Rangel, nicest guy you want to meet, but that doesn't mean he didn't do anything unethical- that doesn't mean he did do that. What is being said is that the- this committee is using investigation tactics that aren't- that are rarely used, and that's why some, including the Congressional Black Caucus, are saying, is this a racist tactic?

SHARPTON: Well, they're clearly using tactics that have not been used before. They clearly are going all the way in areas that they have not, and I think what is telling is that, so far, if Mr. Rangel and Ms. Waters decides to go to a public trial, we will see whether in fact they are putting them on trial, or whether they will be on trial themselves, to see if this is some kind of unfair prosecution. You've got to remember: what was most interesting to me, Don, is when they said that they were offering Congressman Rangel a reprimand- among the lightest things you can offer. So, if he is really guilty of all these egregious acts, why are you offering such a light penalty to what you're claiming is 13 violations? So, I think that what many see- as they are hurting the midterm elections- could be a backlash against those that are pushing this if, in fact, they go to trial and are vindicated in the light of day- we find these allegations have no merit, as we've seen with the others that I have named.

LEMON: Okay. Let's talk- let's really talk about this. The first African-American president, we have two high-profile black congressmen here. We've been talking a lot about race. The President at the Urban League talked about it this week- Shirley Sherrod. There's been a whole lot going on here. Charlie Rangel is among what they call the Harlem 'gang of four,' right? With David Paterson's dad, Basil Paterson, and on and on-

SHARPTON: Right.

LEMON: What does this mean- and Maxine Waters, we know her history- civil rights movement- all of that. What do these mean? What do these people mean to the black community, and what kind of cloud, if any, does this place over them and the Congressional Black Caucus, if at all?

SHARPTON: Well, I think that they mean a lot to the community. I don't know anyone that has stood up longer, stronger than Maxine Waters. They mean a lot to America, not just the black community, and the same with Charlie Rangel. Many are questioning whether or not a lot of this is raised to put a cloud there- at a time that we're facing the midterm election, at a time that there's all kind of pressure being put on the President- to have two high-profile members of his party and others raised in areas and trying to make a lot of our community become disenchanted with the whole process, and feeling- well, if we build somebody up, they're only going to scandalize them or if we- those that would believe it, that they're only not to be trusted. So, there's a lot of reason for some suspicion here.

LEMON: Okay. So then, should they step aside, guilty or not- let a new generation take over- let the midterm elections play out without them?

SHARPTON: Well, the reason that doesn't make a lot of sense is David Paterson is the next generation and it didn't stop them from dealing with him. We saw a lot of scurrilous charges on Jesse Jackson, Jr. He's the next generation. It's not a question of the generation. It's a question of what is generating these investigations. Are they in reality based on facts, or are they not? And if Congresswoman Waters and Congressman Rangel call their hand, we'll see.

I remember when I was a kid- about 14 years old- Congressman Adam Clayton Powell was censured by Congress. The Supreme Court later on found that censorship [sic] to be unconstitutional. So, are we seeing the same pattern or not? We'll see. They tell us, don't rush to judgment. I say the same thing to them.
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center