Sharpton Calls Dean's Agenda 'Anti-Black'
By Brian Faler - Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton launched a blistering attack on Howard Dean yesterday, accusing his rival of promoting an "anti-black agenda."
"Howard Dean's opposition to affirmative action, his current support for the death penalty and historic support of the NRA's [National Rifle Association's] agenda amounts to an anti-black agenda that will not sell in communities of color in this country," Sharpton said in a statement.
He said his comments were in response to a news report yesterday that Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) plans to endorse Dean, the former Vermont governor and presumed front-runner for the 2004 Democratic nomination. Sharpton has had a long-standing rivalry with the congressman's father, Jesse L. Jackson, who twice ran for president.
"Any so-called African American leader that would endorse Dean despite his anti-black record is mortgaging the future of our struggle for civil rights and social justice," Sharpton said.
His statement cited a 1995 interview in which Dean appeared to question the need for affirmative action programs based solely on race. "I think we ought to look at affirmative action programs based not on race but on class," Dean said on CNN's "Late Edition."
Responding to Sharpton's comments, Dean's deputy campaign manager, Andi Pringle, said: "Governor Dean has always been a strong supporter of affirmative action, and he believes there is still a great need for affirmative action in America."
Until now, the Dean campaign's brushes with racial issues have been less vitriolic. Earlier this year, some critics, noting that Dean comes from a heavily white state and campaigns extensively via the Internet, questioned his ability to reach low-income and minority voters.
In a Sept. 9 candidates forum in Baltimore, Dean said he was "the only white politician that ever talks about race in front of white audiences." Several rivals pointed to speeches that disproved Dean's assertion, which Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) called divisive.
Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, yesterday dismissed Sharpton's attacks as a ploy to boost his standing in the polls.
"I think Dean's record on civil rights issues, on affirmative action -- his willingness to talk about race in a very inclusive way -- has been refreshing," said Brazile, who is African American. "These long-shot candidates, all they're doing is taking aim at the top tier because they're frustrated. I think Reverend Sharpton should keep his focus on ideas."
IMHO: Donna Brazile seems to be a bit confused on Dean's record.