Undeterred: Rev. Al Sharpton Rebuffs His Trayvon Martin Critics
Backlash behind involvement in Florida case has emboldened the political activist, TV host
After a lifetime of political activism, public controversies and demonstrated media savvy, there are seemingly few things that will get under Rev. Al Sharpton’s skin.
Criticism of his involvement with the Trayvon Martin case isn’t one of them.
In a Tuesday interview with Loop 21, Sharpton responded to media analysts who felt his dual role – as a political activist mobilizing calls for justice and as a cable news show host covering the mobilization – had blurred the line between participation and documentation.
His critic’s attacks, Sharpton said, are misguided.
“Blurring what line?” Sharpton asked, almost indignantly. “The line that they are trying to impose? What they’re trying to do is redefine what we said I was never going to do.”
CNN’s Reliable Sources program on Sunday lobbed a bit of criticism at Sharpton and his MSNBC show, “PoliticsNation.” On the day Florida state attorney Angela Corey announced second-degree murder charges for George Zimmerman, stemming from the Feb. 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old Miami student, Sharpton was shown embracing the teen’s parents.
Soon after, Sharpton held a press conference with Martin's parents and family lawyers, heralding the success of the nationwide demonstrations for Zimmerman’s arrest, from the convention of the National Action Network. He is the civil rights organization's founder and president.
“Tonight, maybe America can come together and say only the facts should matter, when you are dealing with the loss of life,” Sharpton said during the press conference.
Hours later, Sharpton was interviewing Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sabrina Fulton during his 6 p.m. MSNBC broadcast.
But Sharpton maintains his employer knew exactly what they were getting when they hired a civil rights activist.
“It was clearly established that I was not trying to be Brian Williams,” Sharpton said Tuesday, referring again to the criticisms. “I’m not giving you news, I’m giving you my views of the news, including things that I’m involved with and things that I’m not involved with.”
In a New York Times profile, a few days before Sharpton’s “PoliticsNation” debut, MSNBC president Phil Griffin was quoted acknowledging Sharpton’s hire as “breaking the mold.”
“Anything he does on the streets, he can talk about on air — we won’t hide anything,” Griffin told the Times.
Sharpton brushes off Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz’s segment as "biased" because his “show is doing well and probably beating CNN.”
On Monday, Nielsen TV ratings data show “PoliticsNation” beat out CNN’s “John King USA,” in every demographic in the 6 p.m. time slot. Sharpton's show did not beat ratings for Sean Hannity’s 9 p.m. Fox News Channel program, which was included in Kurtz’s critique on media coverage of Zimmerman’s murder charge.
Now nearly seven months into his cable news career, Sharpton seemed to place himself among TV’s most well-known opinionated news show hosts.
“Nobody watches Sean Hannity, or Bill O’Reilly or me at night to find out what the news is,” Sharpton said. “They watch us to get the opinions of the news.”