Thank God for Rush Limbaugh.
So long as he’s calling George Steinbrenner a “cracker” who “made a lot of African-Americans millionaires,” there’s still a white guy with power in America that Al Sharpton is free to attack. So yesterday, “Silent Al” found his voice and called Rush “repugnant.”
The mouth that once roared is now compromised by a complex intertwine of alliances, as well as legions of benefactors who dump their largesse into the National Apathy Network (NAN) and other Sharpton troughs, subsidizing an opulent Midtown-hotel lifestyle that the Rev. now believes is his own civil right.
Remember when the New York Times recently devoted its front page to the race record of the Bloomberg administration, pointing out that Mayor Mike’s top team is actually whiter than the hated Rudy’s? Remember what New York’s civil rights giant said? Try nada.
Remember when onetime Sharpton sidekick Charles Barron lashed out at Andrew Cuomo and the state Democratic Party’s first all-white ticket in 20 years? Near nada from NAN, whose consultant Charlie King is now Cuomo’s executive director of the same party.
It’s not just the jogging jacket that’s been traded in for suspenders and a three-piece. It’s the raised fist for the open palm.
Just yesterday, The Sharp One did a luncheon for Kirsten Gillibrand, another client of Sharpton go-between Charlie King, who was, until recently, the executive director of NAN and is now its strategic adviser. Until 2009, Gillibrand represented an upstate, largely white and very conservative congressional district and had no known civil rights record. But the morning after David Paterson appointed her to the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, she rushed to NAN headquarters, where longtime friend King, and Schmoozing Al, immediately embraced her.
This Tuesday, Gilly was entertaining black ministers, showing them how to apply for housing grants designed for faith-based initiatives. Sharpton was there as the main speaker, telling the ministers that they “should certainly not forget” what she was doing for them, an apparent reference to November that might interest IRS investigators on watch against politicizing nonprofits.
Gillibrand called Sharpton “a great friend and ally and resource.”
A couple of months ago, Bloomberg spoke at NAN’s annual event and called Sharpton “a partner,” which might have been a reference to some undisclosed relationship with Bloomberg L.P. What else could explain Sharpton’s Ralph Ellison-like portrayal of “The Invisible Man” on everything Bloomberg?
Cuomo was reported to have given Sharpton $10,000 in 2008, though Sharpton is on the list of the state’s top delinquent taxpayers and the co-mingling of his personal, presidential and nonprofit funds has been established by a Federal Election Commission audit. In 2007, Cuomo said he and Sharpton “are pursuing the same basic agenda: racial and social justice.” When Cuomo picked a white upstate mayor as his running mate, Sharpton belatedly convened a meeting of black leaders, but did it in Westchester to avoid what he said might otherwise be a “media circus.” All he told the Amsterdam News about the emergency session was that he was “very anxious and concerned,” but that he was often out of town and missed the run-up to this selection.
The King of Caustic Tongues got no further than posing a question, oh so delicately: “What does that mean for the Black and Brown empowerment process?” Of course, he said nothing when Gillibrand and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli were also appointed in recent years to the posts that now make them part of this all-white ticket. Sharpton’s out-of-sight leaders’ meeting wound up focusing on what jobs minorities might get in Cuomo’s campaign, transition and administration. Even Barron had to “wonder” out loud what this “after-the-fact Black leadership meeting was really all about.”
I called Rachel Noerdlinger, the spokeswoman for Silent Al who’s also learned to say less and less. I asked if Bloomberg had found a way, through Sharpton’s nonprofit alliance with Chancellor Joel Klein or any other mechanism, to subsidize such slumber. I asked what King actually does for NAN, and what Gilly does for Al besides pay King. I have no answers.
She said she would try to talk to the Rev., who, in my own mind at least, is too busy to bother, having tuned in to Rush again today hoping that The Other Grand Poobah will say something he can pounce on, at least until Limbaugh, like the Republican National Committee, sees the klieg lights and sends a check Fat NAN’s way.
Research assistance: Adam Schwartzman, Gavin Aronsen, Jenny Tai, and Michael Cohen.