During a Thursday guest appearance on MSNBC, the Rev. Al Sharpton -- whose weekday afternoon show on the liberal cable channel was replaced with a program on Sunday mornings – claimed that former President Bill Clinton should apologize for “lecturing” two protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement in a rally held a week earlier in Philadelphia.
When host Steve Kornacki asked if the civil rights leader agrees with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' demand for an apology, Sharpton replied: “I think that the way that President Clinton responded in terms of his kind of reprimand and lecturing was inappropriate.”
The guest then stated Clinton said in retrospect that he “almost apologized” for the incident, a term that baffled the civil rights leader.
“It’s a classic Clintonian in-between,” Kornacki said.
The discussion then turned to an anti-crime bill passed in 1994 that was voted for by the Vermont senator and supported by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.
“I think we've got to be fair,” Sharpton noted, since “there is no division in what they did in '94. I think that we're looking at a distinction without a difference.”
“The National Action Network [which Sharpton founded] and I were one of the groups saying, 'Wait a minute. We want to see something done about crime, but this bill goes too far.'” he asserted.
The liberal activist then stated: “The reason I take that personally is because we were trying to get members of Congress” to oppose the measure.
Kornacki claimed that part of the former president's response is that “he's protective of his legacy. He understands that bill is always going to be part of his legacy.”
“And it was wrong,” Sharpton growled.
The host replied:
But he was saying last week when he started getting into some statistics: “Look, violent crime did go down significantly over the last 20 years. He's basically saying: “There were positive outcomes from the bill. You can see that.”
“We said that in '94 because they had community policing in it; they had a lot of things in it that was good,” Sharpton noted. “We just felt that the bad could outweigh the good, and it did” by leading to further mass incarceration, expansion of the death penalty and measures intended to curtail the use of illegal drugs.
Another topic the liberals discussed was Hillary Clinton’s invocation in 1996 of the term “super predators,” a now-debunked theory about the children of criminals.
Sharpton claimed use of that phrase “is a different issue, but I think that clearly, many of us said we think that was an offensive statement.”
Clinton “said she was talking about gang members, but one of the things we're going to be dealing with at the [Democratic] convention [July 25-28 in Philadelphia] is if we're going to take her statement of 20 years ago, you've got to take” Sanders' statement in the recent debate when “he referred to blacks as being in the ghetto and being poor, and that was just three weeks ago.”
“So how do we weigh what?” he asked.
“You know New York politics, New York Democratic politics, as well as anyone.” Kornacki stated before noting that a new poll has Clinton in the lead by 53 percent to Sanders' 37 percent in the Empire State.
“Can Sanders win New York?” the host asked.
Sharpton responded: “It's going to be a question of who turns out their voters.”
He then stated that Sanders' message “has real significance. It resonates a lot, and I've said to him his real challenge is: Can he get to African-American voters?”
Kornacki then stated: “I think the best I've seen him do, just looking at exit polls of young black voters is maybe 31, 32 percent in Michigan and Illinois, and I've seen it down to 10, 12 percent in some of these states.”
“Thirty percent is good for a Republican,” the activist asserted. “For a progressive Democrat, that is not anything near good.”
Part of the problem is that Sanders must “make his argument about finances and about class also factoring in race because black middle class and white middle class is not the same thing,” he noted. “If he was able to close that gap, he could not only win New York, he could win a lot of other places.”
“But they almost seem to be in denial that they have the problem,” Sharpton stated before claiming the Sanders campaign is “not doing well with the black community as a whole. That's delusional, and I think they need to have a reality check here.”
Sharpton's views will be put to the test on Tuesday, April 19, when the New York state primary will go a long way toward deciding who this year's Democratic presidential candidate will be.