2003-02-01 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach

It is hard to believe that anybody, Black or White, thinks that Al Sharpton is a viable candidate for President of the United States.

That is, unless that person wants a certified racial arsonist as president. There is always that possibility. I am sure that Osama bin Laden and his friends would love to see somebody like Sharpton, one of the most divisive men in our divided city, as our nation’s leader.

After his announcement of the position, a reporter asked Sharpton about the Tawana Brawley rape case.

Sharpton brought all of his ample practiced indignity to bear on the questioner.

Sharpton said, "The next time anybody asks me about Tawana Brawley, I’m going to ask them, ‘do you ask Teddy Kennedy about Chappaquiddick? Do you ask Hillary Clinton about her husband?"

As a matter of fact, Al, the reporters do ask those questions, they ask them all the time. Ted Kennedy pulled out of the presidential race because of those questions. John Kerry pulled out of the presidential race because of questions about his behavior in Vietnam while a Seal Team leader. How about Jessie Jackson, who called New York City "Hymietown," and had to withdraw from the presidential race shortly thereafter.

The press asks pertinent questions about a person’s past when they seek to become president, as well they should. A person cannot often outlive his or her history. Sharpton certainly has a lot of history to answer for before he becomes a viable mainline candidate.

For example, Al, how about explaining your involvement with the "Rockaway Five" case, less-known than Brawley, but an urban legend nevertheless. How about the Korean Boycott that exacerbated race relations in this city for several months?

Sharpton continues to cling to the fiction that Brawley was the rape victim of a gang of White men, some of them involved in the justice system, when everybody else in the city knows that the whole case was a fraud.

He can’t bring himself to apologize for his support of Brawley and for slandering a White prosecutor who Brawley pointed out as one of her attackers.

He still thinks, as columnist Sheryl McCarthy recently pointed out, "the system protected the rapists, instead of admitting that he scammed the public and the system to boost his popular appeal. To say he erred would be an admission that he did something really immoral, even as he waved a banner of righteous indignation at an allegedly corrupt system."

Sharpton’s involvement in the Brawley case is well documented. Fewer know about the Rockaway Five case.

Reggie Rivera was a police officer in the 100 Precinct in Rockaway Beach. One of the things that the Hispanic cop did was to ticket illegal van drivers. Reggie could be seen almost any day on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, stopping the illegal vans and ticketing their drivers.

A number of the drivers, most of them from Latin America, decided to get even with Rivera.

Five of them got together and charged that Rivera had sexually assaulted them when he was in uniform and on duty.

The story hit the papers and Sharpton picked up their cause. He organized protest demonstrations each week. The protestors marched from the Hammels Houses to the 100 Precinct, never failing to stop at The Wave offices on Beach 88 Street to shout invectives because the paper refused to excoriate Rivera without some evidence that he had committed the crimes.

I would show up at The Wave each Saturday to join Wave publisher Leon Locke and to watch the same Sharpton regulars walk by, to listen to them yell at the building. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday morning. Everybody knew that Sharpton bused his demonstrators from place to place, paying them for their time.

Eventually, it was proven that the five van drivers lied. On some of the occasions, Rivera was not even on duty. He would have had to come to the Precinct in uniform and check out a patrol car without being on duty. That does not happen.

Evidence was planted. Sharpton pushed the envelope.

Rivera was proven innocent and was transferred to another precinct. The illegal van drivers took over the streets, causing accidents and causing havoc on our streets.

Sharpton never apologized for defaming Rivera. It is not his way. What a president he would make.

Then, there was the "interloper" statement that led to a store being torched and a man being killed.

You remember that one, Al. You said that a Jewish storeowner was an interloper in the Harlem community and that his store should be shut down. Shortly thereafter, if my memory serves me correctly, the store was burned down, killed a worker in the store.

Then, there was the Korean Grocer Boycott in Brooklyn. A Korean storeowner allegedly insulted a Black customer. The boycott went on for months, causing a racial rift in the community and providing lots of overtime for police officers.

I am even skeptical of the fire that gutted Sharpton’s Harlem officer the day after his announcement for President.

Sharpton has had fires before. The last time was shortly after he was asked to provide proof of his campaign activities. Sharpton has been cited by the Campaign Finance Board for not disclosing lots of information. Fortunately for Sharpton, that 1997 fire wiped out all of his personal and business records. He told the Campaign Finance Board that he could not comply because all of his records had been lost.

The most recent fire last week might well have been Al’s "Reichstag" fire. Anybody who remembers history will know that Hitler burned down the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building and then blamed it on an Austrian Jew so that he could both blame the Jews and attack Austria.

Sharpton has often said, in connection with his demand for reparations for the years of slavery imposed on Black in America, that "You can’t separate us from our history."

Well, Al, you can’t separate yourself from your history either, especially if you are going to run for President.

Perhaps an apology will do. An apology for those who were tarred with the Tawana Brawly fiasco, for Reggie Rivera, for the Korean grocer, for the "interloper" who lost his business and for everybody else who was touched by your racial arson.

Sharpton has never been able to apologize, however, and it is doubtful that he will do so now.

Perhaps he should not quit his day job. I doubt that he will come close to the Democratic nod for the job he is seeking.

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