It was shocking to see both President Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio genuflect and pay stirring homage to FBI informant Al Sharpton.
Both men went out of their way to heap praise on Sharpton at his National Action Network conference last week.
The revelation of the Sharpton ties to the mob and his role as an informer is really no surprise.
What is surprising is that Sharpton has weathered all the accusations over the years and is now such a highly prized political figure that he can attract presidents and mayors to his side at will.
Sharpton, of course, rarely deals with his role in the Tawana Brawley case these days, but at one point he had roped the IRA into a role in that particular case.
Back in November 1987 Brawley, a troubled, 16-year-old girl from Wappinger Falls in upstate NY, alleged she had been raped and that “KKK” and the “N” word had been carved into her skin by a group of white people.
She claimed that the rapists included a police officer, which caused a sensation.
Sharpton, then a rising community activist, and his minions saw the allegation as manna from heaven and Sharpton himself created national headlines with his demands that the perpetrators be brought to justice.
First, he pointed the finger at a local police officer, who had committed suicide in an utterly unrelated event.
Then he named Assistant District Attorney Steven Pagones as the perpetrator.
Then he made an even more bizarre claim that he had been told that a secret white men’s cult group with links to the Irish Republican Army had done the dastardly deed.
That was too outlandish, even for the gullible media who were covering every Sharpton utterance at the time.
Several journalists owned up that they had made the fanciful IRA connection in loose talk that Sharpton overheard.
It turned out, of course, that Tawana Brawley had made the whole “crime” up, pretending to be raped because she feared being grounded for seeing a boyfriend.
Sharpton was utterly and profoundly wrong, subsequently lost a defamation case and was widely reviled for his race baiting.
But he rode his notoriety from that event to the very top as the pre-eminent black spokesman.
Now presidents and mayors come calling and MSNBC hosts his nightly show. Even the revelation that he was a mob informer won’t stop the Reverend Al.
It is truly a strange world.