Sharpton: He, And Others, Should Not Be 'Defensive' About Their Rhetoric

January 14, 2011

Mark Memmott

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Becky Lettenberger
Rev. Al Sharpton.

As the national conversation continues about whether last Saturday's shooting rampage in Arizona is a wake-up call for politicians of all persuasions telling them to dial-down their rhetoric, the Rev. Al Sharpton has weighed in to suggest that we need "dialogue that's passionate, but not poisonous."

He made that case earlier this week on the op-ed page of The Washington Post, and again today in a conversation with Tell Me More host Michel Martin.

In the Post and in his discussion with Michel, Sharpton conceded that "I've been on both sides of this" -- as the victim of an attack and as someone who's been accused of inciting violence with his words.

What's he's come to believe, Sharpton told Michel, is that when public figures are accused of going too far with things they've said, "the best thing to do is don't take it defensively ... learn from this moment." He and others, Sharpton said, should take such criticism as a sign that "maybe maybe I should check [whether] I could have caused it" [a violent incident].

As for former Gov. Sarah Palin, who has objected strongly to what she says are links that some pundits and commentators have made between her words and actions and the Arizona tragedy, Sharpton said that "I'm not saying Sarah Palin is guilty or not guilty, did or didn't. I'm saying on my own example, if you're in public you've got to be more careful."

Here's the conversation Michel had with Sharpton: Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.