Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a nuanced eulogy Monday at the funeral for Michael Brown, a fiery speech that was one part a critique of overzealous policing and one part a candid commentary on problems in the black community. Quick: Which part do you think Fox News played up?
Never mind that there was plenty in Sharpton’s stemwinder that should have pleased Fox’s biggest star, Bill O’Reilly, who for years has harangued black people to eradicate what he deems as social and cultural ills in their community.
“Blackness has never been about being a gangster or thug,” Sharpton said in the eulogy for the 18-year-old who was killed by a white police officer earlier this month in Ferguson, Mo. “Blackness was no matter how low we was pushed down, we rose up anyhow.”
He continued with that theme, even denouncing what he described as “ghetto pity parties.”
Blackness was never surrendering our pursuit of excellence. It was when it was against the law to go to some schools, we built black colleges and learned anyhow. When we couldn’t go downtown to church we built our own AME church, and our church of God and Christ. We never surrendered, we never gave up, and now we get to the 21st century, we get to where we got some positions of power. And you decide it ain’t black no more to be successful. Now you wanna be a nigga and call your woman a ho, you lost where you come from.
We’ve got to clean up our community so we can clean up the United States of America! Rev. Al, you don’t understand what they doin’ to us. I understand. But I understand that nobody gonna help us if we don’t help ourselves. Sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves won’t solve our problems. Sitting around having ghetto pity parties rather than organizing and strategizing and putting our differences aside. Yes, we got young and old. Yes, we got things that we don’t like about each other, but it’s bigger than our egos. It’s bigger than everybody. We need everybody because I’m gonna tell you, I don’t care how much money you got, I don’t care what position you hold. I don’t care how much education you got. If we can’t protect a child walking down the street in Ferguson, and protect him, and bring justice, all you got don’t matter to nobody but you!
Some conservative commentators picked up on this.
The Washington Examiner’s Byron York noticed the rhetoric, writing about Sharpton’s “serious moral hectoring of black people” in a column published Tuesday. Former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough, Sharpton’s colleague at MSNBC, praised the eulogy, saying that the civil rights leader delivered a “strong statement” to the black community.
But on Fox, the speech at the memorial service did little to change the narrative that Sharpton is working diligently to gin up racial tension and anti-police sentiment in the St. Louis suburb.
Hours after the memorial service, the roundtable on “The Five” panned Sharpton’s speech.
“It was just so sad, the funeral in general, it was just a very, very sad day. But the tone of Al Sharpton, I thought, was just way off pitch,” co-host Andrea Tantaros said. “I mean, it was really shocking and surprising. He took a very anti-police tone. It wasn’t, to me, if I were eulogizing Michael Brown, it wasn’t the way I would have eulogized that young boy. I would have done it in a different way.”
“And I think Al Sharpton would have really wowed the crowd if he would have just stuck to the legacy of Michael Brown and taken a more positive and realistic message about the problems that are plaguing the black community,” Tantaros added, apparently overlooking the moment Sharpton told the largely black crowd “[w]e’ve got to clean up our community.”
On Tuesday’s edition of “Fox & Friends,” Ainsley Earhardt characterized the eulogy as a “wild speech criticizing police and calling for justice.”
Sharpton did indeed speak critically of law enforcement, though it seems a stretch to characterize his remarks as “anti-police.”
He expressed hope that Brown will be “remembered as the one that made American deal with how we gonna police in the United States.” Sharpton also said it’s wrong “that we have money to give military equipment to police forces, but we don’t have money for training, and money for public education, and money to train our children.”
What little attention Fox gave to Sharpton’s tough talk to blacks was delivered in a back-handed fashion. On the “Kelly File” on Monday night, Fox reporter Mike Tobin said it was the “first time we’ve heard the leadership in this minority community really stand up and give a slap to the out-of-control demonstrators.”
“Al Sharpton, of all people, saying in plain terms it was wrong to go busting up buildings while the parents of Mike Brown were trying to grieve,” Tobin said.
Later in that same broadcast, host Megyn Kelly brought on former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen to trash Sharpton’s presence at the funeral.
Not even O’Reilly was impressed. After Fox contributor Juan Williams praised Sharpton for his remarks on Monday, O’Reilly was dismissive. The self-congratulatory host even tried to take credit for changing the way people think about the events in Ferguson.
“He has to say that now. He has to say that now,” O’Reilly said of Sharpton. “What we did here on the ‘Factor’ here last week changed the whole way that everybody is talking about it.”