The flip-flops of Al Sharpton.

Politics and policy.
Sept. 22 2003 11:18 AM

The Flip-Flops of Al Sharpton

What he said then. What he says now. What happened.

Al Sharpton

Slate continues its short features on the 2004 presidential candidates. Previous series covered the candidates' biographies, buzzwords, agendas, worldviews, best moments, and worst moments. This series assesses the candidates' purported flip-flops. Here is a sequence of switches often attributed to Al Sharpton—and the context his critics leave out.

Flip: In 1986, Sharpton endorsed Republican Al D'Amato over Democrat Mark Green in New York's U.S. Senate race.

Advertisement

Flop: In 1992, Sharpton ran for the same New York Senate seat as a Democrat.

Flip: In 1994, Sharpton effectively backed Republican George Pataki in the New York gubernatorial race. After Pataki won, Sharpton was one of the first people invited to the governor's mansion.

Flop: In 1998, Sharpton endorsed Green in the Democratic primary for D'Amato's Senate seat. Sharpton said, "Mark Green has been consistent on issues that affect working-class people. He has integrity and would be an excellent senator for all New Yorkers." Sharpton did not endorse D'Amato even after Green lost the primary to Rep. Charles Schumer.

Flip: Sharpton supported Fernando Ferrer over Green in the 2001 New York City mayoral primary. When Ferrer lost to Green, Sharpton refused to back Green, thereby contributing to Green's loss to Republican Michael Bloomberg.

Flop: In the 2004 campaign, Sharpton has frequently implied that his Democratic rivals are closet Republicans. On July 30, 2003, he said on CNN's Crossfire show, "We have too many elephants running around with donkey jackets on."

Context: Sharpton wants to make Democrats pay attention to the concerns of the left. He says he has occasionally endorsed Republicans to send a message to the Democratic Party when he thinks it is taking black voters for granted or ignoring the poor. Referring to his hardball tactics in 1994 and 2001, Sharpton has said, "I'm not gonna be a battered wife for the Democratic Party." His complaints about the Republican leanings of fellow Democratic presidential candidates arguably fit that pattern.

On the Crossfire broadcast in which he complained about "elephants" in "donkey jackets," Sharpton also sent a more conciliatory message. When a caller asked which Democratic candidate was Sharpton's "biggest threat," Sharpton replied, "I respect all of the Democrats. … The only one I'm worried about is Bush winning again."

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

Avi Zenilman is a former Slate intern.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 17 2014 11:48 PM Spanking Is Great for Sex Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?