Politico is choosing the present moment to attempt to define MSNBC host Al Sharpton as a centrist. Media reporter Mackenzie Weinger began: "The Rev. Al Sharpton has gone mainstream. The killing of Trayvon Martin has provided Sharpton a high-profile opportunity to portray himself as a responsible actor on the stage of race relations in America and consolidate his standing as a moderate leader in the black community."
This apparently is defined simply by sticking close to President Obama and not signaling violence against "white interlopers" on this occasion. Sharpton is a racial and political squish?
Weinger continued her theme: "While the death has stirred searing passions, Sharpton has not. The longtime activist has chosen to leave the inflammatory comments and conduct to others, while he employs the generally accepted tools of advocacy found in the moderate’s playbook."
What follows is praise by a set of black leaders, including two regulars on his political radio show, Harvard prof Charles Ogletree (who hails his "impressive" evolution) and Earl Ofari Hutchinson, whose regular Monday co-hosting duties were at least mentioned. Sticking with leftist President Obama makes you a centrist, in Politico's eyes:
Sharpton’s role as an ally of the Obama administration has also set him up as someone with national relevance, Emory University professor Andra Gillespie, who studies African American politics, said.
“He was very, very shrewd in kind of playing toward the center, at least in black America, and that actually helped contrast him to people like [PBS talk show host] Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, who decided they were going to be President Obama’s left flank and be highly critical of him,” Gillespie said. “So it was actually quite smart of him to not take that critical role and that helped, one, keep him in the good graces of the White House, and it also really helped him be able to land that job at MSNBC. Like him or dislike him, he’s a player.”
Hutchinson also called Sharpton’s decision to align himself with Obama “very, very smart.”
“I don’t think that hurt him, I think that helped him,” he said. “It provided not only a national platform, he’s seen now in wider circles as not just an agitator on race but as a respected, legitimate political figure. And I think that enhanced his reputation.”
Weinger did turn to Mike Huckabee and former Rep. Allen West for criticism. West was aggressive with Sharpton and his media enablers:
Former Rep. Allen West said Sharpton’s involvement in the Martin case is just the latest in the long line of his attempts to insinuate himself into stories the ex-lawmaker charged are largely manufactured by the press.
“I think he’s taking advantage of whatever a very left-wing media drives people into a frenzy over,” West told POLITICO. “That’s what he does…He is keeping himself relevant based upon the grievances and hardships of others and really capitalizing on some misguided political priorities.”
West added, “I think it’s pretty simple. I think he is not the voice of the black community, and the black community needs sincere voices that are going to stand up for the true conditions that are ailing them.”