The Rev. Al Sharpton has just issued a statement criticizing Vice President Dick Cheney since it has been reported to him "by media" that the Vice President's hunting trip Monday is being conducted at the Clove Valley Rod & Gun Club in Union Vale, New York, where, Sharpton alleges, "there is a Confederate Flag hanging at the club."
I do not know this to be true.
In fact, it seems fairly clear that Rev. Sharpton does not know this to be true.
A friend of mine who has been hunting there insists he never saw such a flag hanging there.
Over at the White House, ABC News' Martha Raddatz reports that Lee Anne McBride from the Vice President's office says that no one in the Vice President’s party saw a confederate flag, or was aware there was one.
"Until this issue was raised by the press, we were not even aware of this," McBride says. The VP's office cannot confirm whether in fact there IS a flag at the club.
Nonetheless, Sharpton says he's "calling on Vice President Cheney to leave immediately and denounce the club and apologize for going to a club that represents lynching, hate, and murder to black people."
That is a big jump from hearing gossip about a club to asserting that the club represents all sorts of hateful criminality.
I just called the club to get a response … no one answered; I left a message.
"In this age of Jena and hangmen nooses all over the country, for the Vice President to relax under the flag of the hangmen nooses is an unpardonable insult to all Americans, particularly Blacks," Sharpton goes on.
"He ought to leave immediately, call for the flag to be brought down at once, and apologize for being connected to an institution that would be insensitive enough to fly it in the first place."
Sharpton goes on to threaten that if the Vice President doesn't leave the club, he "will bring a delegation of clergy to lead a prayer vigil in the immediate future."
Forgive me for asking this … but does this seem rash at all to anyone?
UPDATE: The Sharpton team e-mails me to tell me that both the NY Post and NY Daily News will have photos of the flag that they are breaking tomorrow. I look forward to learning more. Where was the flag hanging? Whose flag is it? It's a potentially very ugly story... but these kinds of stories call for measured responses -- and facts -- from everyone.
UPDATE 2: Read more HERE.