Decades later, Al Sharpton doubles down on Tawana Brawley gang-rape hoax: ‘Should I apologize?’

Thirty-five years after a grand jury found his explosive allegations that a 15-year-old black girl, Tawana Brawley, was gang-raped by a group of white men — some of them, police officers — were false, the perennial race-baiter, Rev. Al Sharpton, still refuses to apologize.

On PBS’s “Firing Line,” host Margaret Hoover asked the civil rights activist if he had changed his mind about the case that launched him into the national spotlight.

“Absolutely not,” he stated. “I have no evidence that I was misled.”

(Video: YouTube)

In 1987, Brawley was found outside the Pavilion Condominiums in Wappingers Falls, New York, covered with feces and wrapped in garbage bags.

“Brawley appeared to have undergone an extremely traumatic experience: parts of her hair were cut off, her pants were slightly burned, and there was a racial slur scrawled on her body,” according to

The young girl told authorities that she had been held against her will by a gang of white men who repeatedly raped her. One of her rapists, she said, had a police badge.

Sharpton, along with controversial attorney C. Vernon Mason and civil rights attorney Alton Maddox, jumped on the case, declaring their support for Brawley and claiming investigators were attempting to cover up the incident.

During the four days that she claims she was being held, no one bothered to file a missing person’s report.

“In fact, there was little concrete evidence that Brawley had been attacked and increasing suspicion that her story was fabricated,” reports. “According to several witnesses, Brawley had attended a party while she was supposedly missing, and fiber evidence showed that Brawley had likely written the racial slurs on herself.”

Rather than pause for some much-needed thought, Mason, Maddox, and Sharpton began hurling unfounded accusations, including an allegation that Assistant District Attorney Stephen Pagones had taken part in the rape of Brawley and Special Prosecutor Robert Abrams was using the evidentiary photos to pleasure himself.

(Video: YouTube)

As the case became a three-ring media circus, Brawley and her family raised more eyebrows by refusing to testify or cooperate with the investigation.

“In October 1988, a Grand Jury dismissed the entire matter,” notes “Attorneys Mason and Maddox faced disciplinary proceedings from the New York State Bar for their conduct during the investigation and Pagones filed a libel suit against Mason, Maddox and Sharpton, which he won in 1998.”

But, according to Sharpton, Brawley “deserved to have her day in court.”

“I don’t have any different understanding because a grand jury is not a trial,” he told Hoover.

“My position was that there was this allegation from this young lady that was really questionable behavior by some that she accused,” he stated.

True to form, Sharpton said the criminal justice system was unfair.

“There’s a famous saying by a judge in New York: You can indict a ham sandwich if you want to,” he told the PBS host.

Abrams once charged Sharpton “with stealing about $250,000 from the now-defunct nonprofit National Youth Movement, a civil rights organization he started as a 16-year-old high school student, and spending it on himself,” The Washington Post reported in 1990. After a nearly two-month-long trial, a jury cleared Sharpton on all counts of fraud and larceny.

“So why would I believe [the prosecutor] with what he did with the grand jury when I saw what he did to me?” Sharpton asked Hoover.

“Should I apologize?” he asked. “Tell me what an apology would sound like.”


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