- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2000

LOS ANGELES Al Gore and Bill Bradley last night refused to repudiate the Rev. Al Sharpton for race baiting in the same way they demanded George W. Bush renounce Bob Jones University for banning interracial dating.
During their ninth and possibly final debate, the Democrats were asked by Jeff Greenfield of CNN if they were practicing selective outrage.
"You have both condemned the flying of the Confederate flag," Mr. Greenfield said. "You have spoken out about anti-gay bigotry. You have spoken out about Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell."
"But both of you have met with Reverend Al Sharpton, a person who was found by a jury to have libeled a New York State prosecutor with highly inflammatory remarks falsely alleging an attack on a young black woman," Mr. Greenfield continued. "He has also been someone who has repeatedly used very inflammatory language about whites and other ethnic groups.
"Now, I'm asking, if the Republican candidates have an obligation to forcefully, unambiguously condemn extremists on their side, don't you have an obligation to be equally forthright in condemning such language by people who tend to be more on the Democratic side of things?"
"I do condemn the language that he used," Mr. Gore said. But he hastened to add: "I think that in America we believe in redemption and the capacity of all of our people to transcend limitations that they have made evident in their lives in the past."
Mr. Gore implied that he criticized Mr. Sharpton in a private meeting but last night declined "to violate the privacy of that conversation." He also seemed to justify the meeting by pointing out the Mr. Sharpton carries considerable political clout in New York City.
"He received something like, I think, 131,000 votes in the last New York City [mayoral] election," the vice president said. "He is undeniably a person to whom some people in the city look as a spokesperson."
Mr. Gore also held Mr. Sharpton, who is black, to a different standard when it comes to handling racial issues.
"There is a racial divide in the way people in different races perceive certain events," the vice president said. "I would not be so quick to completely dismiss what he has to say about some of these issues."
Mr. Bradley was equally reluctant to deliver more than a mild rebuke to Mr. Sharpton, who asked the first question in the Democratic debate in Harlem last week. At the time, neither candidate criticized Mr. Sharpton.
"Yes, I went to the House of Justice in Harlem last summer for a community meeting that Reverend Sharpton invited me to attend," Mr. Bradley said. "I went in order to hear the concerns firsthand of the 600 people that came to share them with me. That was a legitimate thing to do.
"I don't agree with everything Reverend Sharpton has said or done, but I think that he has grown," Mr. Bradley said. "We have to allow people the right to grow. We have to allow people the right to evolve."
He added that Mr. Sharpton "has in many cases kept the lid on otherwise dangerous situations that were beginning to develop."
Mr. Sharpton and his organization, the National Action Network, have been involved in numerous racial controversies in New York:
* In 1995, Mr. Sharpton led demonstrations by his "Buy Black Committee" at Freddy's Fashion Mart in Harlem, whose Jewish owner had a dispute with a black tenant. Mr. Sharpton called the owner a "white interloper" in the majority-black community. After one protest, a demonstrator ran into the store, shot several employees, started a fire and committed suicide. Seven persons mostly black and Hispanic were killed.
* When a Jewish motorist was involved in a 1991 traffic accident that killed a black child, Mr. Sharpton blamed the child's death on "diamond merchants." Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old Hasidic student, was attacked by a group of about 20 black youths chanting, "Kill the Jews" and knifed to death. Mr. Sharpton led his followers on a protest march through Crown Heights, a predominately Jewish neighborhood of Brooklyn. Three days of race riots injured 65 civilians and 158 police officers.
Mr. Gore tried to portray Mr. Sharpton as mainstream.
"Look at the number of rabbis who went to join Reverend Sharpton in his organizing of demonstrations and pickets following the Abner Louima case, that case and the Amadou Diallo case," he said, referring to the case of police abuse of a Haitian immigrant and the fatal shooting of an unarmed African in the Bronx.
Mr. Gore added that "those of us who want to know what the community is thinking about … should listen and try to learn."
Mr. Bradley added: "It sometimes takes someone that rubs a part of the population the wrong way in order to get the attention focused on the issue at hand. I view his activities in that light."
He added: "That's where I think you have to see him, in that tradition of civil rights in this country."

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