Al Sharpton

Al Sharpton

RETRO REPORT has done a fifteen-minute documentary on the Tawana Brawley story, which starred MSNBC’s Al Sharpton. A short history as a refresher:

In 1988, the nation learned the truth about the alleged crimes against Tawana Brawley, but the shocking story was far from over.

In the late 1980s, Tawana Brawley became a household name as her horrifying story spread across the country, igniting outrage and setting off a fierce debate about race in America.

Brawley, after all, was a 15-year old African American teenager, who had been allegedly assaulted by six white men ““ including a police officer ““ from her upstate New York community.

Retro Report was founded by Subway heir Christopher Buck, a former TV editor, along with the New York Times, and will offer weekly 15-minute short docs. According to Laura Hazard Owen of Paid Content, Kyra Darnton, a former 60 Minutes producer, is managing editor.

Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist for team Romney, has an op-ed in the Daily Beast excoriating Rev. Al Sharpton, but also throwing the onus of responsibility for the rise of Al Sharpton on NBC brass.

And today one of the great American news organizations, NBC News, is spending millions of dollars to rehabilitate and promote Al Sharpton. Americans have been pretty good at sniffing out and discarding haters, but here is Al Sharpton on NBC and MSNBC being promoted as a credible source of information. Sharpton has gone from manipulating the news with vile accusations to delivering the news for NBC. When the Boston-bombing story broke, there was Al Sharpton delivering breaking news for MSNBC.

“You would think that if he sold you such a terrible bill of goods for such a giant story that dominated the news for such a long time,” says former Village Voice journalist Wayne Barrett in the Times documentary, speaking to his journalist brethren, “that you would not show up at his next news conference with a camera.”

NBC has gone far beyond showing up. They have made the ethical and news judgment that Al Sharpton should be a credible news source for Americans. They have the right to make that decision, but what about the reason?

Rev. Al Sharpton is one of a very small group of African American voices on cable, which is an important factor. I am not a fan of his show, not only because of the Tawana Brawley episode, but because, though Al Sharpton has improved, I simply think his show sucks. His fans disagree, no doubt.

As its mission, Retro Report does in-depth looks into news stories that caught our attention, then faded in the 24/7 news cycle, as they put it. They have grabbed on to revisiting the Al Sharpton and Tawana Brawley story even though the event happened before the new media era had even begun.

Would Retro Report have gone back to revisit the Tawana Brawley scandal if Al Sharpton wasn’t a host on MSNBC? It doesn’t really matter, because Buck and the New York Times founded the site to take a look back at news events, which Sharpton and Brawley concocted themselves.

As for hiring Sharpton, whether it’s Stuart Stevens or other partisans, people get to rehabilitate themselves, whether you like it or not. The public decides, ratings rule.

I’d say, if anything, it’s the equivalent of Fox News hiring Sean Hannity for primetime. A man who has concocted the most fanciful tales about Democrats, some laced with hate speech, including flogging rape allegations against Bill Clinton, all manner of smears against President Obama, not to mention the ludicrous notion that the Clintons had Vince Foster murdered, which was presented with the chicken shit question mark, the signature of cowards.

The difference between Rev. Al Sharpton and Sean Hannity is that nobody pays much attention to Sean Hannity when he does his worst, while the Tawana Brawley scandal included accusations of real crimes that ruined lives.