Al Sharpton: MSNBC’s Next Failure

MSNBC hit a new low last week when it debuted a talk show featuring Al Sharpton as host. Subsequently, the network changed its advertising slogan to, “We’ve fallen and we can’t get up.”

Sharpton? Really? Is that the best that liberal “journalism” can offer? If you come from New York, then you have not-so-fond memories of Al Sharpton, publicity hound extraordinaire, standing in the subway tracks and leading a dopey demonstration, Al Sharpton convulsing the city with his Tawana Brawley infatuation, and Al Sharpton parading with a medallion around his neck only smaller than the Fortuna wall clock that Flavor Flav wears.

This is a man whose opinions are worth listening to?

In fairness to MSNBC, anybody trying to do liberal talk radio is playing a losing hand. Michael Medved said it best many years ago when he was talking about Michael Jackson, the preeminent voice of liberal talk radio whose erudite, entertaining, and eminently fair show aired weekday mornings on KABC in Los Angeles. As Medved said, if Michael Jackson (the talk show host, not the singer) couldn’t draw an audience, no one in liberal talk radio can.

And that’s the problem. Conservatives pretty much sing from the same hymnal. There are a handful of issues that most conservatives agree on–limited government, opposition to unions, controlling the border, that sort of thing.

Liberalism, by contrast, is a big tent, with as many liberal opinions as there are liberal voters. You pretty much can’t say anything to a group of liberals without inflaming the rest.

Sharpton is a perfect example of this. I don’t know exactly who his constituency is, aside from his own ego. But to the extent that he represents anyone or stands for anything, he is an anathema to Jewish voters, who recall him fanning the flames in a Black-Jewish situation in Brooklyn many years ago. Liberals are a lot like rugby players–they eat their young. It’s amazing they stood by Obama this long, considering how much he has waffled on their agenda. They just can’t be satisfied.

The really sad thing about putting Sharpton on the air is that it demonstrates just how pitiful thought leadership is on the Left. Is this really the best that a liberal news network can offer? Isn’t there anyone out there untainted by scandal, who might have something to say to a liberal audience? I guess not.

Don’t tell me that just because Sharpton has given up the medallion and the track suits, has lost a bunch of weight, and now dresses like a grownup, it means that he’s some sort of new Al Sharpton. It’s the same old demagogic blowhard, just nattily attired. Is he actually going to draw ratings? Does he really have anything worth saying? Or does his elevation to talk show host status simply demonstrate that every bottom has a trap door beneath it?

You’ve probably figured out that I won’t be TiVoing Al Sharpton any time soon. If this is the best the Left can find to promote its values and champion its beliefs, then I just feel bad for liberals. Sharpton isn’t a commentator; he’s a sideshow. He’s a circus act. Although putting him on television does achieve the seemingly impossible: his presence on the tube makes Geraldo Rivera look like Walter Cronkite. 

Don’t let the fancy clothes fool you. Sharpton’s show simply means that we have to revise what Andy Warhol said: In the future, everybody’s going to have his fifteen minutes. Right alongside Keith Olbermann.

Wake me when it’s over.


( New York Times Bestselling Author Michael Levin runs, America’s leading provider of ghostwritten business books. )