Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Rev. Al Compares Lieberman, Unfavorably, To Southern Bigots

NOTE: This letter was posted at The Politicker and The New York Observer on Oct. 9, 2006.

Dear Senator Lieberman:

Though I have resisted getting involved in the political hysteria around your re-election campaign, an October 5th New York Times article prompted me to break my silence. The article reports that you, accompanied by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, raised questions before and audience of supporters of Israel about my presence in the support of Ned Lamont, who defeated you with my assistance in the primary for the Democratic nomination for United States Senate in Connecticut. Though much has been said by surrogates of yours since Mr. Lamont's victory, I have not seen anything directly attributed to you until this article. Frankly, I thought that you having called me personally before my endorsement of Lamont, and asking for my support, or at least to not support your opponent, in the name as you stated to me by phone, that "we were old friends," meant that you were above petty politics. For you to then turn around and try to demonize someone you yourself had befriended and were comfortable enough to talk to at anytime either of us reached out to one another was unimaginable to me. You see, I even said in endorsing Ned Lamont that I disagreed with you on policy, but considered you a decent man.

However, even my disappointment with your character does not prompt this open letter. It is your open and flagrant race baiting and your risking Black-Jewish relations that many of us have tried to repair, for your own political gain, that is most troubling to me. I remember in the early stages of the 2004 Presidential Primary Campaign you and I talked and agreed that we would be careful not to exacerbate or revive Black-Jewish tensions. It led to our being very friendly and leading to much communication. Even after the campaign you agreed to sitting down and doing an interview for the National Action Network documentary of my campaign on how impressed you were, and how well we worked together (a tape we still have). I recall how many took note in the 2000 election when you were the Vice Presidential candidate you publicly stated you wanted to meet with Minister Louis Farrakhan who many had denounced as anti-Semitic. For you now to totally flip the script to hopefully incite some race based hysteria in a desperate attempt to save your political career is beneath the dignity of the man I thought I got to know in 2004. You never once attacked or questioned my commitment to Israel or any racial group in private or public. In fact, you commended my 2001 trip to Israel as a guest of the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, where I denounced terrorism. To now rewrite history and play on peoples' fear for petty political gain in abhorrent.

It is also interesting to me that you would do so standing with Ed Koch, who over the past several years has repeatedly appeared with me as we have jointly worked with Dr. Charles Ogletree of Harvard University in promoting the Second Chance program for non-violent drug offenders. Though Koch and I strongly disagreed when he was Mayor, in the past several years we have traveled together on this program, done joint appearances in the media, posed for front cover stories, and he has spoken at my National Action Network headquarters. In fact, he even spoke at my birthday celebration 3 years ago. If Ned Lamont appeared with me every day from now until the election, he would still not have made as many appearances as Ed Koch has made with me. I call on you, in the name of two communities that still struggle to find common ground, and in the name of decency in political contests, to publicly apologize for the inferences of your statements, and the racial politics your campaign has blatantly engaged in since the primary. One of the reasons I stayed in Connecticut beyond my initially scheduled endorsement of Ned Lamont is: I resented literature that your campaign distributed in black churches suggesting that Ned Lamont was a racist due to his membership in a country club that serves mostly white patrons. I was constantly asked, because of your views on affirmative action and other issues, whether I thought you were in fact the racist, and I constantly said: "I disagree with Joe on the war, on affirmative action, and other issues, which is why I can't support him, but Joe Lieberman marched in the deep south for civil rights in the 60's, and Joe Lieberman stood up in Mississippi for voter right's when I was a mere child. He is no racist." Little did I know that you would adapt the political strategies of those southern bigots you marched against. Is it just to try and win an election, Joe? You and I often talked about the bible. I remind you then of the biblical verse, "What profits a man to gain the world, and loose his own soul?"

Yours in progress,

Rev. Al Sharpton


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