The Reverend Jesse Jackson was for four decades the most prominent African-American civil rights leader in America.
As he nears sunset, stained by yet another controversy and eclipsed by the far brighter star of presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, we could learn much by recollecting the rise and fall of Jesse Jackson.
Jackson was born in Greenville, South Carolina, on October 8, 1941, the same October date as radical Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and fascist Argentine dictator Juan Peron.
Jackson’s mother, an unwed 16-year-old, years later married Charles Henry Jackson, who legally adopted Jesse after the boy turned 16.
Jesse found work at a local restaurant where, as he later boasted, he would secretly spit in the food of white customers.
He attended the Chicago Theological Seminary but dropped out in 1966 to work full time in the civil rights movement. He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1968 without any theological degree. (He earned a Master of Divinity Degree in 2000.)
Jackson joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was named to head its Operation Breadbasket in Chicago, an entity largely devoted to boycotting white businesses.
As my Newsmax colleague investigative reporter Kenneth Timmerman documented in his superb 2002 book Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson, after Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Jackson went on NBC’s Today Show live from Chicago and proclaimed that the civil rights martyr “died in my arms. I was the last person to see him alive. There’s blood on my shirt….This is Dr. King’s blood.”
This, Timmerman found, was “a lie. And in fact, King’s closest associates, [Rev.] Ralph Abernethy among them, were infuriated by Jackson’s lie.”
Rev. Abernethy later suspended Jackson from the SCLC for “administrative improprieties and repeated acts of violation of organization policy.”
Jesse Jackson’s response was to help create Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) and the Rainbow Coalition, later merged into Rainbow PUSH under Jackson’s control. These entities competed against the SCLC for money, activists, prestige and media attention.
Because Jackson allied himself closely with the Democratic Party, and because Jackson positioned himself ideologically as an enemy of capitalism (while enriching himself), the liberal mainstream media has given him literally billions of dollars worth of free airtime.
Among journalists it became a joke that you risked getting trampled by standing between Jesse Jackson and the nearest TV camera. His egoistic craving for media attention was boundless.
One way to get attention, he discovered, was to negotiate personally with foreign leaders for release of U.S. prisoners. In June 1984, after winning release of 22 Americans from Cuba’s Communist dictator Fidel Castro, Jackson turned to the news cameras, raised a clenched fist, and proclaimed to worldwide media "Long live Fidel. Long live Che [Marxist martyr Guevara].”
In January 1984 Jackson ignited controversy by describing to Washington Post reporter Milton Coleman Jews as “Hymies” and New York City as “Hymietown.”
In 1984 Jackson ran for President, campaigning for reparations for slave descendants and formation of a Palestinian state. He won 18 percent of the Democratic vote and five primaries and caucuses.
At the 1984 Democratic National Convention party leaders refused to allow delegates to vote on a simple resolution denouncing anti-Semitism. This was apparently out of fear of offending Jackson and his campaign co-chair Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, notorious for calling Judaism “a gutter religion.”
Jackson ran for president again in 1988, finishing second to the winner Michael Dukakis with nearly 6.8 million primary votes, more than double the votes he won in 1984 and 29 percent of the total.
Jackson won election as non-voting Shadow Senator from Washington, D.C., and served in that post during much of President Bill Clinton’s Administration. By some accounts Clinton approached him about becoming U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, but Jackson chose instead to help his son Jesse Jackson, Jr., secure a seat in Congress.
Waves of controversy tainted him. Why were Jackson’s other two sons given the Anheuser-Busch franchise to distribute beer in Chicago, a monopoly worth tens of millions of dollars, when neither had any experience in this industry? And how could a Baptist minister have his family get rich by selling alcohol that addicted and degraded millions of people?
Then in 2001 the Rev. Jackson admitted adulterously fathering a daughter by a staffer in his organization, a young woman who reportedly received a great deal of money for work there while his mistress. He presently pays $3,000 per month in child support.
Earlier this month in a Fox television studio while waiting to go on air, Jackson enviously told an African-American government official that he wanted to “cut” Barack Obama’s “n**ts off.” (As I asked before, what is the Secret Service doing about this threat of violence against a presidential candidate?)
Bill O’Reilly aired this Fox video and audio but refused to do likewise with its recording of Jackson reportedly saying: “Barack…he’s talking down to black people…telling ni**ers how to behave.”
[The most leftward loon on television, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, said that Fox violated journalistic ethics by using its recording of Jackson, who believed he was not being overheard (despite vast experience with TV red lights).]
[Mr. Olbermann never called NBC unethical for broadcasting its recording of President Bush quietly referring in 2001 to New York Times reporter Adam Clymer as a “major league a**hole” in a private conversation next to what was supposed to be a dead microphone.]
“I’m quick to say if I’ve done any harm or hurt,” said Rev. Jackson, “…because I want my pluses to be stronger than my minuses.”
Jackson, who turns 67 this October, may be losing his inhibitions, his inner censor, his self-control. This is a brain change caused by aging, according to Ohio State University researchers.
But aging Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder and L.A. Dodgers manager Al Campanis were fired for saying politically incorrect things.
Let’s just call him Jesse “The Greek” Jackson and tell him it’s time he left the national stage for good.
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