The reverend has a new primetime show, but remains a polarizing figure:

Sharpton has a long record of involvement in civil rights cases, but there are still those who want to remember him as the guy who defended Tawana Brawley, the teenage girl who claimed to be gang raped by a group of white men before a grand jury dismissed her claims as bogus and Sharpton was successfully sued for defamation. They want to remember him as the guy who said inflammatory things—the man who railed against ‘diamond merchants’ and an ‘apartheid ambulance’—during the Crown Heights riots. Last year, he penned an apology in The New York Daily News for his language during the riots, and for failing to pay more tribute to Yankel Rosenbaum, an Australian graduate student who was killed in what some Jews remember as the worst episode of anti-Semitic violence in American history. ‘I said things growing up. I used to use the ‘N’ word. I used to talk street language about a lot of things that you just can’t do,’ he says. ‘And they’ll bring it back to haunt you.’

‘The other thing I’ve learned, when I’ve had to deal with things I’ve said 20 years ago, 30 years ago, the first thing you should say is, “I shouldn’t have said it,”’ he says. ‘You don’t justify something. If you said something that’s wrong or that was stated wrongly, say that. The public can accept a mistake. What they can’t accept is you digging in and it’s an obvious mistake.’

“Al Sharpton’s Got a Brand New Bag.” — Marin Cogan, GQ

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