The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

18 March 2010

Al Sharpton Uses Radio Show To Fight Back Against WSJ Piece


Sharpton Defensive Over Charges He's Too Cozy With Obama

For many Americans, the controversy must seem puzzling: a public flap over Al Sharpton's increasingly-visible role as Defender-in-Chief of Barack Obama. Weren't they always close?

Most likely, the answer is yes, but Obama campaigned as a mainstream figure who supposedly wasn't taking orders from Jesse Jackson, Sharpton and other inflammatory, polarizing individuals. Until African-American callers began to use the Reverend's program to air grievances with the president, little attention was paid to this downplayed relationship.

Beyond that, the Wall Street Journal's sudden recognition of this growing trend seems puzzling, especially since we began to track it in July of last year. Callers to Al's show with criticism of Obama have almost always been met with a dismissive response.

So whose side is Sharpton taking, that of Washington's elite establishment, or street-level activists elsewhere who've long formed the backbone of his political support base?

Here's Sharpton's defensive on-air response to the Journal piece:

SHARPTON (12:57): I woke up this morning, the Wall Street Journal has a front page story about me and the President saying I’m his new friend, that I’ve been defending him against some attacks from some blacks and I thought it was interesting.

I have said that we need to solve our problems and not expect the President to advocate to himself for us. We’ve got to do that, which we have done with our meetings with him and the Congressional Black Caucus and all.

And it’s interesting to me that some people don’t understand that to try and make the President do certain things will only benefit the right wing who wants to get the President and us.

Clearly, Sharpton's learning
the hard way that one can't have it both ways: accepting a new role as elitist insider with special White House access means leaving past allies behind.

The bigger question: did Al sell out his friends further back than anyone might believe in exchange for upward mobility in Washington? Finally, will supporters buy his defense, or has the brand been tarnished?

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