Al Sharpton wants to have it both ways: he wants to be both a journalist and an activist. And MSNBC’s President Phil Griffin apparently wants that, too. Sharpton’s MSNBC show, PoliticsNation, featured him interviewing Trayvon Martin’s father. “We want you to know, Mr. Martin that you’re not alone,” said Sharpton, “and I don’t believe in drive-by activism, and we will be there until it’s resolved …”
No surprise there. Has Sharpton ever passed up an opportunity for rabble-rousing? Last Thursday night, Sharpton spoke at a rally in Sanford, Florida, Martin’s home town, and said, “We are tired of going to jail for nothing and others going home for something. Zimmerman should have been arrested that night … you cannot defend yourself against a pack of Skittles and iced tea. Don’t talk to us like we’re stupid! Don’t talk to us like we’re ignorant! We love our children like you love yours. Lock him up!”
The obvious conflict of interest between activism and journalism bothered Howard Kurtz of CNN, who asserted, “It seems to me MSNBC can say, ‘Okay, this is such an important case you can go and be an activist and you won’t do your show on the subject. Or you can do your show on the subject but don’t be standing with the parents at the rally and accompanying them to the Justice Department.'”
MSNBC could say that, but it won’t. They knew Sharpton’s history when they hired him: fanning the flames of hatred in the Tawana Bradley affair by staging events and arranging TV appearances after she falsely claimed to have been raped and abducted by white men; raising the specter of racism against the Duke lacrosse team falsely charged with raping a black stripper; and most dangerously, inciting the Crown Heights riots with his repeated calls of “No justice, no peace!”
According to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, a journalist should:
- Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context
- Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
- Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
Sharpton is not a journalist, and MSNBC knows it. But considering their history of using leftist political hacks as reporters (Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz), is anyone really surprised that Al Sharpton is now their frontline journalist on Trayvon Martin?