Thursday, May 10, 2007

Open Mouth, Insert Foot, Rev. Al

Al Sharpton has been on a roll lately. There was the ethering of Don Imus. He held a "Freedom March" last week in NYC, protesting rap lyrics and asking for labels to clean up their act (which will of course never happen). His Syndication One radio show (which I listen to regularly) has seen a spike in listeners and ratings. He's been the toast of Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, which is surely quite a coup de gras for such an attention seeker. Jesse, assuming he's not chasing trivial targets like the Atlanta Braves, is probably somewhere green with envy.

The wheels probably just fell off for the Good Rebb'n, however.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney denounced the Rev. Al Sharpton's remarks about God and his Mormon faith, saying it could be construed as "a bigoted comment."

"It shows that bigotry still exists in some corners," said Romney, who spoke to reporters Wednesday after a campaign event. "I thought it was a most unfortunate comment to make."

On Monday, Sharpton said in a debate that "those of us who believe in God" will defeat Romney for the White House. He denied he was questioning the Mormon's own belief in God.

Rather, the New York Democrat said he was contrasting himself with Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author he was debating at the time.

"As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don't worry about that; that's a temporary situation," Sharpton said during a debate with Hitchens at the New York Public Library.

Romney's campaign seized on the comments to criticize Sharpton, and the candidate complained about the remarks on Wednesday, calling them "terribly misguided."
Open mouth, insert both feet.

I'll give Al some credit for being a stand up guy, and immediately going on the talk short circuit to try and clean this one up. But reality is, his comment, taken out of context (aren't they all) sure sounded an awful lot like a slam against Mormons. It's hard to get around that one, no matter how much back tracking you do.

Romney was a bit out of pocket by jumping right out there and calling Al a bigot, however. That's a pretty strong word, and undoubtedly, when this one is replayed in the months before the Republican primary (assuming Mitt's still in the game), revisionist history will paint Romney as the aggressor here. He, of course has a shaky history of making racially insensitive comments of his own, which doesn't help. For a party that's always paying lip service to courting "the black vote" (whatever the hell that is), this can't really help. Somebody should have schooled Mitt on the Barry Obama "don't say anything and hope this goes away" technique of dodging press inquiries. It worked for him. He came outta the whole Imus melee unscathed, as he should have been.

In the short term, however, look for the vultures to circle Sharpton. You just know that the forces that be have been examining him with a fine toothed comb for any indiscretion after his public flogging of Imus, and this just might be the blood in the water that lures in the sharks.

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