Al Sharpton, deadbeat

     The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in New York. Sharpton spoke about his plans for the pending grand jury decisions in the deaths of Michael Brown in a St. Louis suburb and Eric Garner in New York and also addressed tax allegations in a New York Times story. (Julie Jacobson/AP Photo)

    The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in New York. Sharpton spoke about his plans for the pending grand jury decisions in the deaths of Michael Brown in a St. Louis suburb and Eric Garner in New York and also addressed tax allegations in a New York Times story. (Julie Jacobson/AP Photo)

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Why does MSNBC indulge Al Sharpton by giving him a show?

    And the documented evidence that he’s an egregious deadbeat merely fuels my sense of wonder. From yesterday’s New York Times:

    Mr. Sharpton has regularly sidestepped the sorts of obligations most people see as inevitable, like taxes, rent and other bills. Records…show more than $4.5 million in current state and federal tax liens against him and his for-profit businesses.

    And though he said in recent interviews that he was paying both down, his balance with the state, at least, has actually grown in recent years. His National Action Network appears to have been sustained for years by not paying federal payroll taxes on its employees.

    With the tax liability outstanding, Mr. Sharpton traveled first class and collected a sizable salary, the kind of practice by nonprofit groups that the United States Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration recently characterized as “abusive,” or “potentially criminal” if the failure to turn over or collect taxes is willful.

    Mr. Sharpton and the National Action Network have repeatedly failed to pay travel agencies, hotels and landlords…

    Sharpton responded yesterday by holding a semi-incoherent news conference: “We’re talking about old taxes. We’re not talking about anything new. So all of this, as if I’m not paying taxes while I’m doing whatever I’m doing, it reads all right, but it just is not true.”

    Say what?

    He insisted that he’s “current on all taxes,” which I guess means that he’s paying the latest round of taxes, but, as for the old taxes, well, he’s still not paying them. From today’s Times: “A spokesman for the State Department of Taxation and Finance said the amount due (has) actually increased to $916,000.” That’s just the New York State tab for his for-profit businesses. The feds are after him, too. His non-profit National Action Network reportedly owed IRS more than $800,000 in payroll taxes as of 2012 – the last time the group made a tax filing.

    But what I loved most, about Sharton’s rebuttal yesterday, was his belief that the media is out to get him, rebuking him for his political ties to top Democrats: “A lot of people don’t like the fact that President Obama is the president; a lot of people do not like the fact that Bill de Blasio won for mayor. And they certainly don’t like the fact that I’m still here.”

    That’s a tired old tactic. When you’ve got the facts on your side, pound the facts. When the facts are against you, pound the media.

    And his refusal to ‘fess up is totally in character. He has never apologized his behavior in 1987, when he championed Tawana Brawley, the black teen who concocted a tale about having been raped by some white guys. Sharpton even fingered a local prosecutor as one of the alleged attackers The prosecutor – who was nowhere near the scene of the rape that never happened – successfully sued Sharpton for defamation. The jury ordered Sharpton to pay $345,000. Sharpton’s subsequent reaction: “Apologize for what?” His reaction to the defamation verdict:  “Juries can be wrong.”

    So it’s a mystery why this guy still has a show. Surely there must be someone with more credibility who can fill an hour of hectoring agitprop. And surely MSNBC sees the wisdom of barring its on-air hosts from engaging in partisan activities; after all, that prohibition is set in stone by its parent, NBC News. But no. When MSNBC negotiated Sharpton’s contract in 2011, it violated its own rules. It bowed to his demand that he remain an activist and keep the reins at National Action Network.

    This is why Sharpton can go out and speak at civil rights rallies – and then cover those same rallies on his show. Even in the degraded world of cable journalism, that’s pitiful. And just imagine what liberals would say if Sarah Palin had her own Fox News show and “reported” on her own public gigs.

    And now, thanks to the tax lien saga, MSNBC’s predicament is even worse. It’s indulging a deadbeat who’s stiffing the feds on taxes accrued by the partisan group that the network allowed him to run. MSNBC owns this embarrassment now. No wonder it has refused to comment.

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    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

     

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