(May 21, 2019 / JNS) Rev. Al Sharpton recalled on Monday that the widow of civil-rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took him to task for his “cheap” rhetoric behind the 1991 riots in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Addressing the Religious Action Center’s Consultation on Conscience, the MSNBC host said that he should have “done more to heal, rather than harm.”
Sharpton, a left-wing activist and one-time presidential candidate, said the late Coretta Scott King told him, “ ‘Al, the purpose of our movement has never been to just get civil rights for us, it’s to protect and stand for civil and human rights for everyone.’ ”
“She said that ‘sometimes you are tempted to speak to the applause of the crowd rather than the heights of the cause, and you will say cheap things to get cheap applause rather than do higher things to raise the nation higher,’ ” he continued. “She said, ‘I know that you may not have done things you’re accused of, but you could have spoken out louder, if you are going to be in the King tradition and if you are going to be invested in your roots, and if you are going to be what we invested in you to be.’ ”
Sharpton added, “You cannot fight racism without fighting anti-Semitism.”
Yankel Rosenbaum, 29, a visiting graduate student from Australia connected with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement based in Brooklyn, was stabbed to death during the riots.
His brother, Norman Rosenbaum, and Isaac Abraham, a longtime consultant to the Rosenbaum family, denounced the RAC’s invitation of the National Action Network founder.
“The disgraceful decision by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism to have Al Sharpton speak this morning at a plenary session of its conference in Washington, D.C. (titled ‘Consultation on Conscience’) sends a very dangerous and intolerable message to the anti-Semites among us,” they wrote in The Washington Examiner. “Anti-Semitism is on the rise, not just in the form of shouts or graffiti but also the murder of Jews. It is thus incomprehensible how the Religious Action Center could have ever made this decision.”
“Sharpton has never apologized or shown any remorse for his actions during the 1991 Crown Heights Pogrom,” they added. “Indeed, he has never apologized for any of his other reprehensible deeds.”
The Coalition for Jewish Values cited the Examiner piece and added their condemnation of the RAC for letting Sharpton address their audience.
“That is a shameful way to describe a man known for anti-Semitic statements and incitement to violence,” said its president, Rabbi Pesach Lerner. “Al Sharpton set race relations back years, and helped ignite a hostility towards Jews in the black community that persists to this day. For a Jewish organization to declare such a person a ‘civil-rights leader’ betrays both authentic civil rights and Jewish values.”