For Al Sharpton, the fallout from the Trayvon Martin shooting has projected his organization, the National Action Network, to center stage. And for Sharpton, himself, the opportunity to enjoy the high profile publicity he craves.
Sharpton, 58, is an unusual figure in the media world because he is not simply a reporter or commentator. He has his own nightly program on MSNBC which he frequently uses to promote his own political agenda. He is, often, both the observer and the story.
The Trayvon Martin case provided a golden opportunity for him to use all his many talents to the full. From helping organize the rallies, to speaking out on behalf of the Martin family, to leading delegations to the Justice Department, Sharpton was everywhere last week.
He not only reported on the news, he was the news!
He told the viewers of his TV show about the rallies, and his involvement. “I’ve said from the beginning we must pursue [this] until the end,” he said, adding, “We’ll be in 100 cities on Saturday.” He also used his program – Politics-Nation – as a platform to apply pressure on the government to arrest Zimmerman on federal charges.
This has begun to cause problems for NBC, parent company of MSNBC, as questions are asked about the propriety of Sharpton being at the center of the very news he is supposed to cover.
MSNBC president, Phil Griffin, accepted that his company had treated Sharpton differently from other hosts on the network. Indeed, the company policy is to specifically ban its workers from direct involvement in political action.
He justified the decision saying: “We didn’t hire him to be just another news host. I knew who we were hiring. He brings to our channel a different voice, and a voice who speaks about issues that are not being talked about regularly anywhere else.. . . I think having Rev. Sharpton on our air is a major plus for this network.”
But, the network baulked at Sharpton’s fundraising activities for the Martin family. Griffin says they “talked about it” and Sharpton agreed not to continue.