Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to pitch his new self-celebrating book, The Rejected Stone, Al Sharpton of PoliticsNation refused to back off his infamous conduct during the 1987 Tawana Brawley case, during which Sharpton slandered six innocent men, including assistant district attorney Steven Pagones. “We stated openly that Steven Pagones did it,” Sharpton said. “If we’re lying, sue us, so we can go into court with you and prove you did it. Sue us – sue us right now.” Pagones did sue, and won. Sharpton didn’t pay up personally; his followers did, while Sharpton claimed he didn’t own any of his own personal belongings.
So what does Sharpton claim now, when the media claims that he has reformed his ways? First, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski wrongly characterized the case as one where “Tawana Brawley, who accused a group of black men in New York of raping her, you came to her defense.” The men Sharpton accused were white. But Sharpton answered by sticking by his original Brawley involvement:
I think that what I learned in Brawley, and it’s a case where if I was called today by a young lady who made those claims, I would respond the same way, but what I wouldn’t do is get into a back and forth with name calling with the prosecutor, and go for the quick from the hip kind of flippant attitude with the press. You learn to do what you do better….Whereas 25 years ago, it was “I don’t care what you think, I feel I’m right, I feel I’ve gotta do what I’ve gotta do,” now I’m not talking to the prosecutor.
Asked if he regretted what he put the innocent men through, Sharpton shook his head. He answered:
You know, people ask me today, did I apologize to George Zimmerman?....Why would I say that I should not come to the defense of someone who had made a claim and those who had accused never would have come forth in the grand jury at that time that we got involved….Any of the cases we get involved with, we’re not the investigators, but we have the basis of coming in based on we feel there has been a civil rights violation.
Pressed again on whether if he knew then what he knew now, he would have acted similarly, Sharpton got animated:
Well, what do I know now? A grand jury didn’t believe her? A jury didn’t believe Trayvon Martin’s family…I believe there was enough reason to go to court on that case, which is what we advocate….You’ve got to remember the same prosecutor came after me on situations I knew was wrong. Why would I believe the jury that he used there?....Why wouldn’t civil rights leaders respond? That’s what we’re about.
Once again, he was pressed on whether he believed the Tawana Brawley case was a hoax. Again, he demurred:
I believe that the basis of our involvement, of saying that this prosecutor should have moved forward and brought this into court was absolutely the right position to take, and that’s the position we took.
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