We've been saying for awhile that for a guy like Glenn Beck to try to claim the mantle of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement for conservatives -- as he is clearly attempting to do with his August "Restoring Honor" rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial -- is nothing short of a travesty -- especially when you consider that he otherwise spends his time promoting the work of a Bircherite Mormon who was otherwise well known for smearing King as a Communist (a practice Beck himself is notably fond of applying to other black liberals like Van Jones) and attacking "progressives" as a "cancer", even though King himself not only was a self-described progressive, but even made speeches proclaiming Beck's great shibboleth, "Social Justice."
Last night, Al Sharpton went on the air with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's Countdown and made clear that Civil Rights leaders are indeed deeply offended by Beck's desecration:
OLBERMANN: Read that phrase again: “we will reclaim the civil rights moment. We will take that movement, because we were the people that did it in the first place.” To your knowledge, who‘s this we he‘s talking about?
SHARPTON: I have no idea. From my study of history, those that claim to be the Tea Partiers and the followers and supporters of Mr. Beck and Mrs. Palin were the ones that today advocate the things that that march was against.
First of all, that march was to appeal to government to intervene and protect the rights of people. They are against big government. I mean, you don't have to get to race. Their idea of government and the idea that Dr. King and Roy Wilkins of—and others espoused is the exact opposite of what they're calling for. Dr. King met with Caesar Chavez and talked about how we protect people, no matter who they are, that come into the borders, and have a sound policy. They're the ones that are rallying against that. So I think that they are absolutely, unequivocally—I don't even have to get to the race side of this. They are against the concept of what the march was about in '63. And for them to now talk about we're going to reclaim or we're going to take back a movement, that they are the philosophical children of the Barry Goldwaters, who opposed it—I think it would be laughable if it wasn't so arrogant.
OLBERMANN: Yeah. What do you think—is there an attempt in here to desecrate Dr. King's memory and what everybody stood for then? Or is this just a publicity stunt by some sort of a megalomaniac?
SHARPTON: Well, whether it's an attempt to do the desecration or whether it's a publicity stunt, it can desecrate. The fact of the matter is the march was 47 years ago. So people that are middle-aged and younger would not understand what it was about if we did not do our rally that we do every year. And Urban League, Marc Morial and others that have inherited those organizations, as I came out as a kid in the aftermath of Dr. King's death from his movement—that's not what the movement is about.
The movement is about what they talked about them. Martin Luther King talked about America giving blacks and poor people a bad check. These people are the ones that don‘t want to even give you an unemployment check today. He talked about us having a judicial system that was fair. These are the people that defend brutality.
So I think that it will be a classic case of they're trying to hijack something. But there will be some of us in Washington, at another location. We're not going to confront them. We're going to do what we always do, affirm the dream to try to complete it, because we're not there yet.
Sharpton says the way to counter Beck's rally is for thousands to turn out for his "Reclaiming Rally" in New York the same weekend. And he said he's not alone in being offended:
SHARPTON: It's going—certainly it's energized by this distortion. I've talked to Martin Luther King III. He's coming and others. A lot of us are offended by it. But we're not going to play into that. We're going to put a clean glass next to whatever they do, wherever they do it.
OLBERMANN: It's a fascinating point that you can subtract the entire element of race out of this, and they've still gotten it wrong, from what Martin Luther King said in 1963.
SHARPTON: And if we had another hour, I could bring the race part up. If you just use government and what Martin Luther King said—read the whole speech. It is the exact antithesis of what they represent and what they‘re saying in the Tea Party.
Glenn Beck, of course, has no shame. It's about time someone called him out for his bizarre and hypocritical hijacking of Martin Luther King's legacy.