Achieving justice, Al Sharpton-style, isn’t cost-free. And even his natural allies are admitting that the New York-based civil rights leader-provocateur can’t say “no” when it comes to money. This Tuesday, the New York Post published an article on a Staten Island, N.Y. rally on behalf of the late Eric Garner, a local black resident who died last July 17 soon after being arrested by police. Rev. Sharpton has championed his cause, insisting that white cops had racial motivations in using a banned chokehold in the arrest, which involved Garner’s attempted sale of loose cigarettes. Yet Garner’s adult daughter, Erica Snipes, is not impressed. Asked by an undercover video journalist if she thought Sharpton was a crook, she responded, “He’s (Sharpton’s) about this,” rubbing her fingers together. And she’s not the only person who feels the Rev is putting his bank account first.
Al Sharpton, now 60, needs money. Without it, he could not have been able to conduct his decades-long campaign to achieve a coercive ideal of “justice.” Toward this end, he spends a large portion of his time making fundraising appeals to corporations, unions and other institutions. What he does with the money after receiving it is a story unto itself. Numerous articles published over the years by National Legal and Policy Center, and now in an NLPC book, Sharpton: A Demagogue’s Rise (see especially Chapter 21, “Where’s the Money?”) have revealed “Reverend Al” to be adept at hiding or falsifying his balance sheets. His combined federal and New York State personal and business back tax liability continuously has been in the millions of dollars during the past decade; the best current estimate is $4.5 million. Very likely, Sharpton has embezzled from his coffers. Yet because he is a friend of many powerful people, including President Obama, the IRS and the State of New York have seemed willing to give him a free pass, especially given the high propensity of his admirers to riot.
The sorts of people who think like Sharpton were in abundance last month at a rally on behalf of Eric Garner. But not everyone thought highly of him. An investigation by Project Veritas, headed by conservative activist-guerrilla journalist James O’Keefe, brought this possibility home. An O’Keefe investigator with a hidden camera-microphone at a Garner family rally at St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island, posing as a supporter, asked Garner’s 24-year-old daughter, Erica Snipes, the following question: “You think Al Sharpton is kind of like a crook in a sense?” Snipes’ response: “He’s about this,” rubbing her fingers together. “He’s about money with you?” the undercover journalist asked. “Yeah,” responded Snipes.
This wasn’t the only problem that Snipes had with Sharpton and his group. She also complained to the investigator that the Staten Island director of Sharpton’s nationwide nonprofit group, National Action Network (NAN), Cynthia Davis, had scolded her for handing out street fliers defending her father because they did not contain a NAN logo. Snipes stated: “She (Davis) started attacking me. ‘Oh, I see that you got this flier out. How come you didn’t add the logo?” In response to the journalist’s question, “They want their logo on your fliers?,” Snipes said, referring to Sharpton: “Instead of me, he wants his face in front.” She added: “Al Sharpton paid for the funeral. She (Davis) is trying to make me feel like I owe them.” The Veritas undercover project also produced off-the-cuff candor from other rally attendees. Brooklyn businessman Jean Petrus had this to say about Sharpton: “He knows how to make money and get money. They’re shakedown guys to me. You know, let’s call it what it is. They’re a shakedown.” And Bishop Calvin Scott of Believers Temple in Ferguson, Missouri (the St. Louis suburb where the Michael Brown shooting took place last August), also had some unflattering words about the Reverend Al. “To some degree, he sort of incites people for the wrong reason,” said Bishop Scott. “I’m in the gathering. He got them all fired up. But I just sense this is not the way you want to go.” Yet when interviewed by the New York Post, the interviewees, possibly fearful of retaliation by Garner family members or Rev. Sharpton, backtracked. On Monday night, as the story was being posted, Erica Snipes denied Sharpton was obsessed with money. “No, I didn’t say that I think Al Sharpton is all about the money,” said Ms. Snipes, who at least did manage to reiterate her criticism of Cynthia Davis. Jean Petrus also retreated from his earlier statement. He told the Post that he never consented to an interview with Veritas and considers himself a friend of Sharpton. “It was an entrapment situation,” said Petrus. “It’s really underhanded.”
Reverend Al wasn’t too keen on the secretly recorded statements. He accused Project Veritas of “exploiting” Erica Snipes and the rest of the Garner family. Sharpton put it this way: “They’re splicing and dicing stuff together. It was a distortion. Erica is a sincere victim. She was not trying to infer anything with me.” He added that NAN helps families, and that Erica’s sister, Emerald, now works for the group. On Tuesday, the publication date, National Action Network issued the following statement on behalf of Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, and his widow, Esaw Garner:
As the mother and head of the estate of Eric Garner, and the widow of Eric Garner, let us be clear: We reached out and asked for help and assistance from Rev. Al Sharpton and National Action Network in the wake of Eric’s death. National Action Network and Rev. Al Sharpton have honored all of our requests, including covering the expenses of Eric’s funeral. We believe that their involvement is solely based on their commitment for justice for Eric and our family. It is National Action Network policy that they do not accept monies or even reimbursement from victim’s families. Erica made it clear in this NY Post article that the way the interview was conducted was extremely deceptive and her comments were taken out of context.
All too often, politics is driven by the principle, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This is especially true when race enters the picture. Criticizing Al Sharpton, publicly or privately, does not automatically constitute opposition to his worldview. On principle, the protestors at that Staten Island demonstration clearly had sided with Sharpton over the death of Eric Garner. The thing they wanted most, and what a New York State grand jury last December had declined to hand down, was a criminal indictment of one or more New York City police officers. My book, Sharpton: A Demagogue’s Rise, takes the view that the grand jury made the right call. Notwithstanding, Project Veritas has performed a real service by revealing, if in unguarded moments, that even Sharpton’s putative allies are not necessarily enamored of his way of doing business. Official denials aren’t likely to change this.