The Rev. Al Sharpton’s party got crashed this week when the Smoking Gun published—in a story conveniently timed to coincide with this week’s gathering of Sharpton’s National Action Network—official documents showing that going back to the ’80s, he went to work for the FBI as an informant against organized crime in New York.
It’s an embarrassment, no doubt, for the ubiquitous reverend, who told reporters on Tuesday, “I’m not a rat, I’m a cat … I chase rats.”
But while he’s had his share of dustups—including this one and going back to Crown Heights and Tawana Brawley—for decades now, there’s been no controversy big enough to knock Sharpton off his game for long.
From hosting his nationally syndicated radio show to holding down his own hour in MSNBC’s prime-time lineup—and from a quixotic 2004 presidential run of his own to hosting the first African-American president at the National Action Network’s annual convention on Friday—Sharpton is always in the mix and, for better or worse, remains the unofficial mayor of black America. Just look at this sampling of Rev. Al moments over the years and tell us we’re wrong.
Old-school Rev. Al became one of James Brown’s sanctified acolytes back in the 1970s when the Godfather of Soul became his mentor—and, clearly, his style guru.
Sharpton rose to national fame in the ’80s when he took up the cause of Michael Griffith and Yusuf Hawkins, young black men who were killed in the New York City neighborhoods of Howard Beach and Bensonhurst.
Sharpton rose to national embarrassment when he took up the cause of alleged sexual assault victim Tawana Brawley in 1987 and her story turned out to be a hoax.
Over the years, Sharpton picked surer battles, like supporting the family of Amadou Diallo, an immigrant who was profiled, beaten and killed by New York City police officers in 1999.
Al Sharpton was also there for the fiancee of Sean Bell, who was killed by New York City undercover officers outside his bachelor party in Queens in 2006.
In 2004 (was that really 10 years ago?), Al Sharpton ran for president.
None of these guys got to the White House, but Sen. John Edwards might want to rethink that finger in Sharpton’s face.
But Al Sharpton never stopped agitating. Over the years, there’s been no one better to amplify a cause—even if you’re protesting the military in Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Sharpton demonstrated to support the Jena Six in 2007.
Sharpton stood with the family of Trayvon Martin.
He was there when his friend James Brown was laid to rest in 2006.
Rev. Al has demonstrated with a veritable who’s who of America. He even rolled with the late, great Michael Jackson.
When cable TV’s top-rated host wanted to sample Sylvia’s—Harlem’s famous soul food spot—who do you think took him there to eat?
Back in the day, Sharpton even found something in common with New York’s other famous lightning rod.
And surely you remember when Al Sharpton teamed up with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Education Secretary Arne Duncan at President Obama’s behest?
Here he is in 2007 with a once-and-future presidential hopeful. They’re probably asking, “Have you ever heard of some state senator named Barry Obama?”
At this week’s National Action Network Convention, you’d have seen him with that Barry guy, otherwise known as the president of the United States.
But he’s actually on a first-name basis with more than one president.
Had enough Sharpton yet? If not, you can catch him every night on MSNBC.
So to recap, one little surveillance video showing him negotiating with an undercover fed about that flaky white stuff … it won’t keep him down.
Just look at him. Slicked back, slim, immaculately attired and with a look on his face that can only be interpreted as, “You mad?”