The Washington Gadfly
Koch says Sharpton no Jew hater

Spanking the Monkey
Remember during the Tawana Brawley affair when Sharpton side kick Alton Maddox accused then New York Attorney General Robert Abrams of pleasuring himself with Brawley's picture. 

If pressed on whether Maddox's allegation of neo-Onanism was correct, even Sharpton could have trouble deflecting inquiries with his usual wit and grace.

Just which picture did Abrams use? How did Maddox know that Abrams pleasured himself in this manner? Did he spot hair on Abrams' knuckles?


Again, it sounds funny. But fatso wouldn't necessarily be amused. Sharpton can't back off from any part of the Tawana story, even the bizarre allegations from Maddox, without tacitly admitting that his whole shtick about being a lone crusader against inveterate racism is one big con game.

Former New York City mayor Ed Koch calls himself a liberal with sanity. Often, however, he sounds like a liberal with Tourette Syndrome; Koch tends to casually blurt out a choice phrase sure to offend one of his core constituencies. But he doesn't seem much to notice or care.

Blacks. Feminists. Gays. Koch has enraged them and most every other group over the years that otherwise enforce a stranglehold grip on the leaders of the modern Democratic Party. 

But now it's conservative-minded Jews and their ideological soul mates who could next put the outspoken ex-mayor on their list that starts with s but rhymes with hit.  In an exclusive interview with Koch defended Al Sharpton against long-standing allegations of anti-Jewish prejudice.

"I don't think Sharpton is an anti-Semite," says Koch, who famously asserted during the 1988 Democratic primaries   that Jews would be crazy to vote for then-candidate Jesse Jackson.

Koch says Sharpton harbors no particular animus towards those Jesse Jackson might deem "Hymie-Americans," but simply baits them when politically expedient. To illustrate what he calls Sharpton's "demagoguery" in this realm Koch mentioned that he once heard Sharpton talk about "Jew-elry."

Koch may have been referring to Sharpton's remarks in the wake of the Crown Heights riots. Sharpton adamantly denies any such Jew bating, including many of the quotes attributed him in various press reports. He denies that he ever called Hasidic Jews "diamond merchants" which is one quote often used to accuse him of anti-Semitism.   

Sharpton is certainly a man of his word. So folks can decide for themselves how much credulity to accord his denial.

In any event, the defense of Sharpton from a prominent and right-leaning Democrat is likely to drive some prominent conservatives bonkers. Right-wing activist David Horowitz regularly calls Sharpton an anti-Semite. The RNC did also; until Sharpton sued and forced a retraction. Columnist Mona Charen claimed, her unique ability to read minds much in evidence, that Democrats know  Sharpton is an anti-Semite

Nevertheless, conservatives have good reason to actually welcome Koch's defense of Sharpton.

First, he should be taken seriously.

Koch has denounced black anti-Semitism long before it was safe and the subject was still verboten among many liberals. 

He even embarrassed Democrats in 1988 when he declared that Jews would be crazy to vote for Jesse Jackson.  Koch dubbed Sharpton "Al Charlatan" years when others dared not criticize the reverend for the way he simultaneously played the race card and stacked the deck.  And Koch is perhaps the only prominent Democrat to publicly oppose racial preference policies or "affirmative action" as liberals with typical chicanery call them.

More importantly, Koch is probably the only prominent Democrat who still criticizes Sharpton for the bilious lies about Tawana Brawley that launched his career. Most everyone in the public square blatantly lies at some point but Sharpton is the only politician who got busted for his lies but never forced to apologize. Even though he was found guilty of libeling one of the men he accused of raping the lovely Tawana.

Sharpton is one of the few politicians who perpetuated an outright hoax, which is how Koch quite precisely describes the Tawana Brawley affair. It was not some kind of youthful indiscretion as Sharpton supporters, such as Marc Green, who Mike Bloomberg defeated in the 2001 mayoral election, now like to pretend.  

Koch seems willing to forgive, but not forget. "I do work with Sharpton, recently urging his support of a candidate I was supporting for Brooklyn district attorney.  I am also working with him on the Second chance legislation for drug offenders who have served their time in prison.  [But]I told him that unless he repudiated the Tawana Brawley hoax, he could never become a cross-over leader.  But he is a genuine leader and perceived as such in the black community.  On a personal level, I like him."

Conservatives determined to raise important questions about his credibility would probably find returning to the Tawana Brawley matter a far more efficacious means than trying to pretend he's another Jesse Jackson or Louis Farrakhan. Both, unlike Sharpton, have over many year repeatedly slurred Jews and insulted Israel.  Jesse Jackson was known as an anti-Semite long before Hymietown. He had a record of making disgusting and vicious remarks about Jews, including calling Zionism the poisoned weed of Judaism and saying that he's sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust.

Sharpton can continue to weather charges of anti-Semitism. But if pressed on lying about Brawley then his whole modus operandi collapses.  He used Brawley to suggest racism is rampant in American society and he continues to pretend that, with the acquiescence of Democrats and Republicans, today.  If racism is not rampant than much exalted civil rights leaders are today little more than cry babies of color.

Certainly, it seems odd that Koch, who is about as warm and fuzzy as a grizzly bear on an empty stomach, would defend Sharpton. 

Is Koch, who famously made New York City political doyenne Carol Bellamy cry and then bragged about it, going soft now that he's over 80?

No, he insists.  Indeed, Koch is still Koch.

He is just following his properly formed conscience on this issue as he does on so many others. With typical modesty, Koch often makes the point that he has been ahead of his time on most every issue. In many cases, he's not only been a prophet without honor but a prophet widely excoriated and abused. He enraged the New York Times by saying the constitution was "dumb" if it wouldn't allow the City to forcibly remove the homeless from Penn station. But now they do, with court approval and practically no whimpering from liberals.

Koch could prove ahead of the curve on Sharpton also. Hopefully, the reverend's most vociferous critics on the right can treat Koch's arguments with a measure of seriousness rather than respond like they're the ones who have Tourette Syndrome.

   Evan Gahr, a former press critic for the late New York Post editorial page editor Eric Breindel, recently broke the story of a race discrimination lawsuit against the Washington Post. He has written for almost every major conservative publication.