The New York Times, once again, feigned ignorance regarding “civil rights activist” Al Sharpton’s racially incendiary past. The front of the New York section on Saturday, N.R. Kleinfield questioned why “the provocative civil rights activist” has been silent on the case of International Monetary Fund bigwig Dominique Strauss-Kahn, accused of raping a hotel maid in Manhattan. (The charges were dropped after questions were raised about the credibility of his accuser.)
But an obvious answer – Sharpton’s involvement in the Tawana Brawley case – wasn’t hinted at until the last two paragraphs of the seventeen paragraphs of “Assault Case Spurs Debate, But Sharpton Stays Silent.”
In the three months that the city and a good portion of the world buzzed about the hotel housekeeper and the French man of power, voices big and small spoke up for one side or the other, or simply urged that justice be found in a courtroom. There were news conferences, rallies, protests, cable-TV exhortations.
But one New York staple has been silent throughout the debate over the housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo, and the French man of power, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a voice many would have expected to be among the loudest: the Rev. Al Sharpton, the provocative civil rights activist.
He has apparently said nothing publicly, issued no position statement. He has not shown up at rallies centered on the case.
Kleinfield had no clue, and only brushed against Sharpton’s history, saying only that “Mr. Sharpton seems to have moderated his tone in recent years,” leaving off his past claims of “white interlopers” and Jewish “diamond merchants.” Only in the last two paragraphs does Kleinfield raise, but not comment on, a possible reason why Sharpton may not have credibility in addressing a claim of rape:
Last Sunday, he wrote an opinion piece for The Daily News in which he expressed regret for some of the tone and language he used during the Crown Heights race riots 20 years ago and mentioned how he had “grown” since that episode. Prompted when a 7-year-old black boy was run over by a car driven by a member of a Hasidic cleric’s motorcade, the riots led to a Hasidic scholar being stabbed to death by a black man.
Many critics have not forgotten Mr. Sharpton’s vociferous advocacy of Tawana Brawley, the 15-year-old who claimed she was abducted and raped by a gang of six white men in 1987, only to have a grand jury conclude it was a hoax. Mr. Sharpton was ordered to pay $65,000 for defaming a prosecutor whom Ms. Brawley said was involved in the attack.