Time to boycott MSNBC's Al Sharpton (really)

Someone at MSNBC must take responsibility for Al Sharpton. It should be Al Sharpton. Photo: AP

CHICAGO, July 26, 2013 — It’s time to boycott MSNBC, the network’s racially-divisive host Al Sharpton, and their sponsors. For real, this time.

With the full support and encouragement of MSNBC, Sharpton has been allowed to run amuck, using his TV platform to make himself and his tax-exempt organization the subject of his news broadcasts. Any other TV commentator on a national news network would be fired for using his news platform for political gain.


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But Sharpton has special privileges at MSNBC.

This week, Sharpton boasted on MSNBC that it was he who “helped organize a lot of the outrage” around the Trayvon Martin case. Many would agree that, short of Sharpton’s distorted spin on the case, Martin’s hoodie would never have reached its religious relic status.

But it gets worse and worse.

On Wednesday, Sharpton took to the pulpit at the New Birth Baptist Church in Miami, Florida, touting his organization’s 100-city protest of the acquittal of George Zimmerman. As usual, his message was one of political electioneering, not peace or racial healing.


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“We will have a showdown in Florida on the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law by whom we vote for next year,” Sharpton proclaimed to the mostly African-American audience. 

The IRS may want to give Sharpton and New Birth Baptist’s leadership a ring and explain to them how politicking normally puts a church’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status at-risk.

Sharpton has pushed the idea of a boycott against the State of Florida, which he promoted again via Twitter this week. A letter was posted Thursday on Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) referencing the Travyon Martin verdict and soliciting contributions for the organization. NAN is a 501(c)(4) organization, which allows Sharpton to contribute money donated to pet political causes and candidates for public office.

Sharpton promotes National Action Network on his MSNBC program, Politics Nation. MSNBC also cross-promotes Sharpton’s organization on its website at NBCnews.com.


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So why does MSNBC treat Sharpton with kid gloves?

Sharpton lobbied on behalf of Comcast as it sought government approval for its takeover of NBCUniversal. Many contend that he was rewarded with a broadcast contract from MSNBC in July of 2011. MSNBC denied there was a quid pro quo.

Earlier in 2011, MSNBC issued this statement: “There is no agreement with Mr. Sharpton to host a program; however, it is important to note that Comcast plays no role in either the independent editorial decision-making of MSNBC or the selection of its hosts.”

And if you believe that, President Obama has another stimulus to sell you.

But what of Sharpton’s role as political activist on a “news” network? MSNBC contends the longtime activist was not hired to be a “journalist” and that his political activities are “transparent” to viewers.

So Sharpton’s fuzzy “journalistic” status justifies the network’s involvement in and promotion of the Democrat activist’s political activity?

According to the Washington Post, MSNBC carved out a “special exception” for Sharpton that allows him to participate in politics as a contract NBC employee. NBC News’ policy normally prohibits an employee’s direct involvement in political activity.

“We didn’t hire him to be just another news host. I knew who we were hiring. He brings to our channel a different voice, and a voice who speaks about issues that are not being talked about regularly anywhere else. … I think having Rev. Sharpton on our air is a major plus for this network,” MSNBC president Phil Griffin says.

But Sharpton is doing much more than involving himself directly in political activity; he is using MSNBC has a platform to make himself and his organization the story and then using that national platform as a base to organize and raise political funds.

And that may be a new one for the journalistic ethics books.

So the question is: What is MSNBC’s legal and ethical responsibility for Sharpton’s political activities? Is there a violation of FCC laws? If MSNBC can act as a political organization, what if other news networks and their pundits follow suit?

That is why others are now questioning the ethical issues Sharpton’s political activities raise for NBC — activities that are not as transparent as the network contends.

Sharpton’s role as a liberal activist on MSNBC also raises issues about his coverage of news stories. Is the host using his national platform to deliberately twist story facts for a political purpose?

From the Tawana Brawley hoax and the Crown Heights Riot to Freddy’s Fashion Mart, Sharpton has a troubling record when it comes to twisting the facts to inflame racial hatred. As host on MSNBC TV, he regularly misrepresents or omits facts and has rarely been called to account by network.

A few weeks after the tragedy, Sharpton began flashing childhood photos of Trayvon Martin. Would photos of Martin at his actual age have raised more questions and engendered less sympathy for the teenager? It was a deliberate deception by Sharpton and a successful one.   

Sharpton stated the teen was “unarmed” and that he was just going back home after “buying an ice tea and Skittles.” This has continued to be Sharpton’s narrative on MSNBC, even as the hard facts of the case have become known, i.e., that there was strong physical evidence that Martin attacked Zimmerman, punching him and bashing the neighborhood watch volunteer’s head against the sidewalk.

In other words, Trayvon Martin may have committed a crime: a violent assault against George Zimmerman. And it is the committing of crime that may have led to Martin’s death. 

Now, even after the trial and the acquittal, Sharpton continues to exploit the tragedy for political gain.

In Monday’s Huffington Post, Sharpton wrote, “Trayvon Martin committed no crime. Trayvon Martin went to store to buy Skittles and an iced tea … Trayvon Martin’s killer wasn’t arrested for weeks until after the horrible incident. Those are facts. And facts cannot be denied no matter how they may be twisted or spun.”

Sharpton also offers another example against Stand Your Ground, the the case of Marissa Alexander, whom he says “fired a warning shot to scare off her abusive husband.” He says Alexander was “denied the ability to use ‘Stand Your Ground’ in her defense and is currently serving a 20-year sentence. How is that justice?”

But, again, those are not the facts of the case. 

With MSNBC’s help, Sharpton’s false narratives continue to injure race relations in this country.  According to a new NBC/WSJ poll, 52 percent of adults questioned said race relations in the U.S. are “very good” or “fairly good,” down from more than 70 percent between 2009 and 2011.

At some point, someone at MSNBC has to take responsibility for Sharpton’s racially-motivated profiteering from politics.

It should be Al Sharpton.

See a list of MSNBC’s sponsors here. 

Read more from Chicago with Bill Kelly’s Truth Squad


William J. Kelly is an Emmy award-winning TV producer and conservative columnist. He is also a contributor to the American Spectator and Breitbart.com. He is a native from Chicago’s Southside.

 


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William Kelly

 

Conservative commentator, satirist, and radio talk show host William J. Kelly pens the “Kelly Truth Squad” and “The Tea Party Report” for the Washington Times Communities and is a contributor to the American Spectator and Breitbart.com. Kelly is also a producer of Emmy award-winning TV and received an Emmy nomination himself for outstanding achievement on-camera. He was previously the Executive Director of the National Taxpayers United of Illinois, a taxpayer watchdog group. He is a native of Chicago’s South side. For more information, visit www.kellytruthsquad.com.

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