The Neverland Music Summit

Sharpton's Confab Charges Music-Money Apartheid

Sharpton, who by last Wednesday was on the Today show, was candid, though, about benefiting personally from the Jackson hype. "The fact of the matter is, if that is part of the reward, so what?" he told the Times.

"Michael," said an industry insider, "is more politically savvy than people give him credit [for being]." Prince, he noted, "merely wrote 'slave' over himself in his struggle with Warner Music, and didn't reach out." True, but Prince also didn't try to disguise his self-interest behind black unity. He made race an issue to some degree, but he didn't exploit black consciousness. Jackson has reached out to the black community, as evidenced by the enthusiastic but gullible crowds who filled the room to see the bleached-out brother last week. Given that he has shown no real regard for black concerns over the past 20 years, though, some blacks question his sincerity in returning to the fold in hard times.

In the final analysis, this coalition has backfired on the Gloved One. It has revived the child molestation allegations, and unearthed unsavory tidbits like the fact that the 9-11 charity video he accuses Sony of sabotaging was spiked by his own people on learning it was produced by a gay pornographer. Eerily, Sharpton's embrace of Michael Jackson and the attendant media frenzy harken back to the heady days of another media circus: the Tawana Brawley case, in which an incendiary accusation and a plethora of cameras followed Sharpton and legal eagles Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason. This time the legal team is Michael Hardy, Lewis Myers, and Johnnie Cochran, and it is déjà vu all over again.

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