This weekend, MSNBC host Al Sharpton launched a campaign against Barneys in New York after allegations of racial profiling by two young black customers who purchased expensive items and were then accosted by police. Kayla Phillips, 21, bought a $2,500 Celine handbag in February, and said that NYPD then detained her. Tryon Christian, 19, sued Barneys and NYPD, accusing them of detaining him after buying a $349 Ferragamo belt.
Sharpton accused NYPD of “colluding” with Barneys to target black customers. However, Sharpton also defended rap mogul Jay-Z, who has a longstanding relationship with Barneys in which Barneys donates a portion of profits from sales of Jay-Z related materials to Jay-Z’s charity. Jay-Z has refused to denounce Barneys, releasing a statement saying, “I am against discrimination of any kind but if I make snap judgments, no matter who it’s towards, aren’t I committing the same sin as someone who profiles? I am no stranger to being profiled and I truly empathize with anyone that has been put in that position. Hopefully this brings forth a dialogue to effect real change.”
Jay-Z, who made the snap judgment to label George Zimmerman a racist murderer of Trayvon Martin, added, “I move and speak based on facts and not emotion. I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately?… The negligent, erroneous reports and attacks on my character, intentions and the spirit of this collaboration have forced me into a statement I didn’t want to make without the full facts.”
Sharpton defended Jay-Z, stating, “Some people want to make this about Jay-Z. No, this is about Barneys first.” Kirsten John Foy, head of Sharpton’s National Action Network in Brooklyn, said, “There’s a lot of talk about whether or not Barneys should be doing business with certain black people. I think it’s a racist notion to assume that the only black person Barneys does business with is Jay Z. We’re not there to focus on Jay Z. Jay-Z did not write the corporate policy at Barneys. Jay-Z is just like every other business man, he is there to make money and if he is the only black business man that does business with Barneys – that is the problem.”
The CEO of Barneys, Mark Lee, reportedly called Sharpton on Saturday to pay obeisance. He said in a statement, “Barneys New York believes that no customer should have the unacceptable experience described in recent media reports, and we offer our sincere regret and deepest apologies.”
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).