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Al Sharpton to NBC: ‘Betrayal of History’ to ‘Sugarcoat’ U.S.’s Opposition to Mandela

On NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday morning, MSNBC host Al Sharpton warned against “sugarcoating” America’s ambivalent history with Nelson Mandela, and pushed back against another panelist who argued that Ronald Reagan was aggressive in his support of Mandela’s release.

“There was a real battle in this country,” Sharpton said. “So when Randall Robinson and Maxine Waters and Reverend Jackson led that fight, they were attacked for supporting communism.”

“Let’s remember, the ANC, they were pursuing freedom,” Sharpton continued. “Many of the communist nations embraced them, this country did not. It was not like they were born Marxist; they were born people seeking to be free. Some of the Marxist nations, either genuinely or in a self-interested way, tried to embrace that. This country did not and fought that and denounced them and denigrated them. And I think for us now to sugarcoat that is a betrayal of history. We chose sides. We chose the wrong side.”

“It wasn’t that the United States was taking the side of the South African government and apartheid,” Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot said. “Everyone agreed that apartheid was odious. The disagreement was over how best to pursue the breakdown. After the sanctions debate, President Reagan picked an ambassador, Edward Perkins, to South Africa, who was a black American, who argued for the release of Mandela, and may in fact have had significant influence in releasing him.”

Sharpton wasn’t having this. “Let’s be clear, Reagan supported veto on bills, Reagan denounced Mandela, called him names. He evolved after a protest movement here turned the tone and public opinion. But let’s not act like Reagan was a major supporter of Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement. It’s just not true.”

Watch the while clip below, via NBC News:

[Image via screengrab]

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