News and Analysis

‘There Wasn’t Violence. There Wasn’t Bloodshed’: MSNBC Whitewashes Al Sharpton’s History
US reverend and civil rights activist Al Sharpton speaks during the National Action Network 30th Anniversary Triumph Awards at Carnegie Hall in New York on November 1, 2021.
KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images

When you think of nonviolent protests, you may not think of Al Sharpton — but MSNBC does.

An MSNBC host praised the controversial racial crusader for holding demonstrations devoid of “violence” or “bloodshed” and for maintaining a “great” relationship with the New York City Police Department.

Joe Scarborough complimented Sharpton, who was a panelist on Friday’s episode of “Morning Joe.”

Scarborough began by highlighting the comments of Hawk Newsome (whose given name is Walter), the leader of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York. Newsome cautioned New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams against reactivating a plainclothes police unit to crack down on gun violence. “If they think they are going back to the old ways of policing then we’re going to take to the streets again,” Newsome threatened. “There will be riots. There will be fire, and there will be bloodshed.”

“You know, Rev, obviously people can disagree,” said Scarborough, who has expressed his admiration of Adams. But, the host told Sharpton, Newsome’s approach is “obviously not the way to do things and not the way you do things.”

“You disagree, but you would sit down and talk; you would find middle ground. And there wasn’t violence. There wasn’t bloodshed,” Scarborough asserted of Sharpton’s decades of agitation in the Big Apple.

In reality, Al Sharpton played a pivotal role in the 1991 Crown Heights riots, which one historian described as “the most serious anti-Semitic incident in American history.”

Sharpton helped heat the cauldron of black-Jewish relations days earlier, after City College of New York Black Studies professor Leonard Jeffries claimed that “rich Jews” ran the transatlantic slave trade, and “Russian Jewry … and their financial partners, the Mafia, put together a system of destruction of black people.” When asked about the comments, Sharpton came to Jeffries’ aid. “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house,” Sharpton defended offensively.

Then came Crown Heights. On August 19, 1991, a car in the detail of the late Rabbi Menachem Schneerson struck two young black children, killing 7-year-old Gavin Cato. As the neighborhood rioted, many chanted, “Kill the Jew!” A group of up to 30 people surrounded a rabbinical student from Australia named Yankel Rosenbaum, stabbed him four times, and fractured his skull. He died after hospital staff missed one of his wounds.

The next day, Al Sharpton ignored the wishes of then-New York City Mayor David Dinkins (D), stirring up a crowd that marched through the streets of Crown Heights chanting, “No justice, no peace.” During Cato’s funeral sermon, Sharpton denounced Jewish “diamond merchants,” adding: “The Bible says that a man sows, that shall he also reap. Well, who sowed violence?” The Wall Street Journal reported that worse rioting ensued that night:

Jews were pelted with stones, pulled out of cars and attacked. A mother hit by a rock thrown through her window called 911 six times as rioters shook her door, but police never came. … Told to hold the line, nearby police stood as hundreds of rioters threw objects. Eventually police were ordered to retreat. … [A]round 200 NYPD officers turned away from the riot and ran.

The next day, rioters attacked and wounded 10 police officers (including Police Chief Lee Brown) and 10 civilians, and they threw a bottle at Dinkins. As the NYPD finally received orders to begin enforcing the law, the riots subsided. All told, 43 law enforcement officers and 152 civilians had experienced violence or bloodshed.

Near the 20th anniversary of the riots, Sharpton wrote an op-ed in the New York Daily News, saying, “our language and tone sometimes exacerbated tensions and played to the extremists …” That flaccid acknowledgment provoked a response from the victim’s brother, Norman Rosenbaum.

Al Sharpton did “not outright apologize for his conduct. And his conduct was reprehensible,” Norman Rosenbaum wrote. “… Sharpton never called upon the rioters to stop their anti-Semitism-inspired violence. He never called on the rioters to go home. To the contrary, he stirred them up. … He has given us no genuine expression of remorse.” Norman Rosenbaum passed away last July. Most of his brother’s assailants were never prosecuted, much less convicted.

Despite that history, Scarborough told Sharpton, “I’d love your comments about [Hawk Newsome’s] outrageous statements.”

Sharpton seemingly denied that Newsome had made any threat and refused to condemn the BLM leader because he did not know “the context” of Newsome’s comments. “I don’t think any of us are talking about riots or violence,” Sharpton replied. “I don’t know … the context” of Newsome’s warning of impending “violence” and “bloodshed,” so “I don’t want to comment on that, because I don’t know.” He did not comment what context would render the threat of “bloodshed” acceptable.

Sharpton, who twice sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, hosts “PoliticsNation” on MSNBC.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  ‘There Wasn’t Violence. There Wasn’t Bloodshed’: MSNBC Whitewashes Al Sharpton’s History