In a stunning about face, the “Rev” Al Sharpton first accepted and then backed out of a debate sponsored by the Oxford union in London concerning the topic of race relations in the United States.
Sharpton was to argue his tired charge that the United States is “institutionally racist” before bailing out on his Oxford union hosts at the last minute. Had he honored his commitment, Sharpton would have stood side-by-side with debate partners Black Panther leader Aaron Dixon and liberal blogger Mychal Denzel Smith.
Arguing the opposing view in the structured style of Oxford union debate were SiriusXM host, Breitbart News, and Fox News Contributor David Webb, conservative commentator Joe R. Hicks and BBC radio host Charlie Wolf.
Sharpton, who has been trading on his close relationships with President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, instead asked Oxford if he could deliver a prepared speech without the classic back and forth arguments governed by a moderator charged with enforcing strict time limits that Oxford union debates are known for.
Upon learning that Sharpton was running for the tall grass, debate opponent Webb said that:
“He (Sharpton) wants to control the event, because he won’t debate the facts and the real issues including how his own conduct impacts race relations in the U.S.”
“He doesn’t want to be exposed for what he really is – a shakedown artist and racial coward. After years of conning people into giving him money by fanning the flames of racism, he’s just too afraid to have a civil, fact-based conversation about the issues of race in America.”
In the end, the Oxford union decided to let Sharpton make a prepared 20-minute speech.
However, Oxford Union president Lisa Wehden, in an attempt to keep as close to debate tradition as possible, said that Sharpton would have to take questions from his debate opponents.
While not pleased with the outcome, Webb said “it would be wrong to allow Sharpton to get away with just his usual thin, inflammatory rhetoric when this is supposed to be a substantive discussion”.
This has not been a good year for Sharpton.
Most recently, the United States Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder, decided not to indict former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the self-defense shooting death of Michael Brown.
The shooting set off weeks of angry protests that Sharpton successfully sought to incite before all the facts of the shooting became known. Later, Sharpton again turned up his race-baiting rhetoric when a Ferguson grand jury decided not to indict Office Wilson in the incident.
Subsequently, Sharpton seized on the resisting arrest death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York – an arrest captured in a cell phone that went viral later in the day.
Garner, who was overweight and in poor health, was alleged to have sold untaxed cigarettes on a city street – a crime that he had been arrested for many times in the past. During the arrest altercation, an officer applied a “choke hold” in violation of New York Police Department policy. The NYPD dismissed the offending officer from the force.
Subsequently, a grand jury decided not to indict any police officers involved with the arrest with a crime.
Several days after the failed indictment was handed down, uniformed NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot execution style as they sat in a marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner in what investigators described as a crazed gunman’s goal to avenge the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
Following the assassinations, Sharpton sought to back off on his rhetoric, calm tensions and avoid public comment but by then, the damage had been done.