Al Sharpton's ties to Trayvon Martin case beset MSNBC
Sharpton, a longtime civil rights activist, is taking a leading role in the controversy surrounding Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager shot to death by a community watch captain in Florida last month. Sharpton has led rallies in support of Martin's family and pressed for the arrest of his killer, although he broke away from those activities Tuesday to attend the funeral of his 87-year-old mother.
But Sharpton also hosts a current-events show, "Politics Daily," on a cable-news network, where opinions roam freely but passionate off-hours advocacy of the type Sharpton is engaged in is generally frowned upon. After all, MSNBC is the same network that famously suspended former host Keith Olbermann after he was found to have donated to Democratic political candidates.
Conservatives are zinging MSNBC — which has become a depot of liberal opinion — with relish. Commentator L. Brent Bozell III whacked Sharpton as a "race-huckstering activist" and accused the network of "mind-boggling hypocrisy" for keeping Sharpton but dumping conservative host Patrick Buchanan this year after he published a book that foretold "the end of white America."
But not all the fire is from the right wing. The Associated Press weighed in with a story Tuesday, observing: "Sharpton's dual role would have been unthinkable on television 20 years ago and still wouldn't be allowed at many news organizations. While opinionated cable news hosts have become commonplace over the past decade, Sharpton goes beyond talking."
But for now, MSNBC is sticking with its host, reasoning that viewers understand where Sharpton is coming from.
"We hired Al Sharpton to be Al Sharpton," an MSNBC spokesman wrote Show Tracker when asked for comment. "When Rev. Sharpton joined MSNBC, it was with the understanding that he would continue to do his advocacy work. We're fully aware of that work and we have an ongoing dialogue. His participation in these events is very public and our audience is completely aware of where he stands on the issues. It's because of this work and his decades of activism that Rev. Sharpton brings such a unique perspective to our line up."
What do you think of Sharpton's double duties?
— Scott Collins (twitter.com/scottcollinsLAT)
Photo: Al Sharpton, seen here with Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump, has mixed advocacy with his MSNBC talk-show duties. Credit: Roberto Gonzalez / Getty Images.