Reporter Manny Fernandez attended one of the Rev. Al Sharpton's weekly "action rallies" at his Harlem headquarters ("Meetings Are Part Revival, Part Rally, but All Sharpton") for Sunday's edition - convenient timing, given that disgraced radio host Don Imus would be appearing on Sharpton's radio show the next day to apologize for his "nappy-headed ho's" commentdenigrating the Rutgers University womens' basketball team.
Fernandez, for whatever reason, apparently didn't interview the great man himself. Still, Sharpton was on safe territory, given that the paper has rarely if ever challenged him on his past hateful statements and actions, which include spreading the incendiary Tawana Brawley hoax. In 1987, Sharpton insisted that the black teenager was raped by a group of white men, including prosecutor Steve Pagones. The Brawley case fell apart, and Pagones eventually won a huge settlement against Sharpton for defamation.
Predictably, none of that history showed up in the Metro section story: "Every Saturday morning, Mr. Sharpton opens the doors of his National Action Network's headquarters in Harlem for an 'action rally.' The meetings are something more than a rally - part radio show, church service, comedy revue, civil rights demonstration, town hall meeting and fund-raising drive. The rallies are broadcast live on WLIB-AM, the city's first black-owned radio station."
"He happened also to make national news, which sometimes happens at his rallies, too. He called for the firing of Don Imus, the syndicated radio host, after Mr. Imus referred on Wednesday to the students who play for the Rutgers University women's basketball team as 'nappy-headed ho's.'
"After the television cameras had left, Mr. Sharpton refocused on the nuts and bolts of his civil rights organization, signing up seven new members to the National Action Network. Then he taught an introductory class for new members."
"Mr. Sharpton's address was at once humorous and serious, part of his strategy to infuse the rally with what he calls 'information, destination, inspiration.'
"On Mr. Imus, Mr. Sharpton said: 'Don Imus should be fired and taken off the airwaves. This is not about insensitivity, this is about the abusive, racist, sexist use of our federally regulated airwaves.'"
A day later, Imus appeared on Al Sharpton's syndicated radio show to apologize once again (having already done so on his own show). On Tuesday, CBS radio and MSNBC (which airs a simulcast of Imus's radio show) both announced they would suspend Imus and the show for two weeks starting next Monday.
Times media reporter Bill Carter covered Imus's apology on Sharpton's radio show for the Tuesday edition,and let Sharpton get his assaults on Imus in without ever interjecting the inconvenient truth of Sharpton's inflammatory past, a past far more racially divisive than anything Imus said about a women's basketball team.
"Mr. Sharpton said intent could not be considered when actions were 'over the line.' He also said that no matter how good or decent Mr. Imus might be at heart, his actions in this case had 'set a precedent' that would invite other commentators to make similar comments.
"He promised he would push the issue with sponsors and the F.C.C. It was not known last night how advertisers, which have included Bigelow Tea, Chrysler and the New York Stock Exchange, would respond.
"The F.C.C. may not have a direct means to address the issue. It was under a mandate from Congress to act against what was deemed indecency, but there is not a similar mandate against other types of speech by a broadcaster.
"Several media executives said a bigger problem for Mr. Imus may be advertisers' response to calls for a boycott. Most such boycotts usually prove to be ineffective but Mr. Sharpton and other black leaders promised to make this one work. Mr. Sharpton also said he wanted to make sure Mr. Imus did not come out of this experience unscathed."
Thanks to the Times' amnesiac coverage, Sharpton is sure to come out of any encounter with the paper "unscathed."