Why would the news media ignore information about Al Sharpton’s shady past? It is liberal media bias? In part, yes, but that also combines with some basic truths about the day-to-day nature of reporters’ jobs – especially the way it worked at the time when Sharpton first rose to prominence.
The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley exposes the media’s complicity in the coverup of Sharpton’s real background:
Way back in 1988, New York Newsday reported that Mr. Sharpton had given the FBI information on black leaders. In other words, a man who refers to blacks who disagree with him as sellouts was himself selling out blacks. FBI agents first contacted him in 1983 about a videotape that apparently showed Mr. Sharpton discussing a drug deal with an undercover agent. The account also appears in the 1990 book “Outrage: The Story Behind the Tawana Brawley Hoax,” which was authored by six New York Times reporters. “As Sharpton told it, the agents warned him that he could be in a lot of trouble and suggested he cooperate with the government,” the authors write. “The tape was never made public, but Sharpton insisted that it would not incriminate him.”
Despite this shady history, Mr. Sharpton has lost no credibility with the civil rights establishment and members of the press, who with few exceptions continue to indulge his theatrics, help him build his brand and treat him as a respectable spokesman for black people. “The media, particularly television, needed him for his access to the movement,” write the authors of “Outrage.” “It was easier to reach Sharpton than to seek out diverse views among blacks; reporters didn’t waste time wondering whom he spoke for. And the various civil rights groups, in turn, needed him for access to the media. For nobody knew better what buttons to push to get on the six o’clock news, to get on Oprah and Phil and Downey and Koppel.”