Civilized conversations between DC's top politicos and journalists

Should a black woman fill Supreme Court vacancy? What Al Sharpton says.

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton also discussed Thursday whom Democrats could turn to if their presidential front-runner, Hillary Clinton, were indicted.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Civil rights leader and National Action Network president Al Sharpton speaks at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Washington, DC.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights leader known for access to the Obama White House, on Thursday carefully avoided mentioning black women jurists who could be nominated to fill the US Supreme Court vacancy – but was quick to cite Vice President Joe Biden as someone Democrats could turn to if Hillary Clinton were indicted.

Some black civil rights groups and activists are pressuring President Obama to name a black woman to the high court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. No black woman has ever sat on that court.

When asked about the subject at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters Thursday, Mr. Sharpton did not single out potential nominees. He said he did not want to give Republicans “an easy foil by using us to disrespect the presidency ... by saying they are not going to entertain someone nominated by me or by other civil rights leaders.”

Sharpton, cited by The New York Times as “the White House’s civil rights leader of choice,” stressed that the president’s decision on the matter would be “a central concern” of the National Action Network that he heads and for minority voters generally.

“Many of the things that we have fought for in the last half a century – around affirmative action, around voting rights, around immigration rights, around women’s right to choose – are either on this [court’s] calendar or can find their way” to the court, he said. “Whoever sits on the court could really determine where this court is going the next half century or more.”

At the breakfast, a reporter asked Sharpton what the Democratic Party would do if Mrs. Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, were indicted as a result of ongoing investigations into how she handled State Department e-mails. Sharpton first stressed, “I don’t think she is” going to be indicted, noting the former secretary of State’s strong denial of the possibility in Wednesday night’s Democratic debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“In case she is wrong,” Sharpton said, Democrats “would have to have someone who could unify the party quickly.” He added, “Just shooting from the hip, I think there is a very fresh face around the corner – Joe Biden. Is that fresh enough for you?”

When pressed for other possibilities who could step in, Sharpton mentioned Secretary of State John Kerry, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn.

Then he said, “I think that a candidacy by [Massachusetts Sen.] Elizabeth Warren would be electrifying.”

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.