Al Sharpton, who’s built his career on stoking racial tensions for personal and financial gain, accused President Donald Trump of inciting a “poisonous atmosphere” in the US.
“We’re in a poisonous atmosphere that is being increased by the president of the United States. It’s like turning on the gas in a room.”
“Any match could lead to an explosion, and we’re getting that kind of atmosphere from this president.”
As anyone familiar with Sharpton’s history is probably aware, the hypocrisy inherent in his statement is staggering. Even within the black community, Sharpton has become associated with transforming tragedies into media circuses for personal and financial gain. In 1987, the Reverend famously accused a prosecutor in upstate New York of taking part in the rape of a black teenager. Her story was soon found to be fabricated. One family member of Akai Gurley, a young black man who was shot and killed by police in Brooklyn in 2014, complained that Sharpton swooped in and “put his name on” the situation before discussing it with the family.
Sharpton, who made the remarks during an appearance on Politico’s “Off the Record” podcast, used the opportunity to raise awareness for his annual march from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Aug. 28. Sharpton and Trump have a history of feuding dating back to 1989, when Trump published advertisements in local newspapers demanding the death penalty for the Central Park Five, who were later exonerated.
Their most recent dustup occurred in 2012, when Trump was embroiled in the “birther” controversy, Politico reported.
“In 2012, Sharpton accused Trump of peddling racism throughout his birther phase. They met in Trump Tower that November—“to apologize for calling me a racist—very nice, apology accepted!” was the @realDonaldTrump tweet, though the reverend himself said then and says now both that he didn’t call Trump himself a racist, and that he didn’t apologize.”
Sharpton clarified that he isn’t calling Trump a racist this time, either.
“Sharpton still deliberately isn’t calling Trump a racist, or an anti-Semite. “I don’t want to reduce this to that. His policies are there. That speaks for itself. If we make it personal, he wins,” Sharpton said. “I used to call people names. Don’t give people the easy way out.” But, Sharpton added: “I think he has empowered anti-Semites and racists. I think he has brought them from the shadows into the mainstream and I think he’s emboldened them, and I think that’s a dangerous course for the country.”
Like Trump, Sharpton has also been accused of antisemitism, Politico noted.
“Sharpton has his own checkered history full of accusations of anti-Semitism. He bristles when those are brought up, saying that it’s usually willful misinterpretation by others seeking division, though some is reflective of his own learning curve.”
Of course, Sharpton was quick to brush these allegations aside.
“To him, the imperative now is for people who are offended to stand united against Trump, but to refuse to play into the violence or debates like the one over the Confederate monuments because he says that’s what Trump wants.”
Despite their acrimonious history, Trump and Sharpton – two outsize New York City characters - have more in common than perhaps either would like to admit.
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