GOP’s Inappropriate Soul Man
By Debbie Schlussel
Why is the GOP using Don King, a convicted murderer, as its messenger to Black America?
Recent polls show that Blacks may double their vote for George W. Bush over that of 2000.
But if Election Day results in Black America match these polls, it will be because of the GOP’s message of opportunity, self-help, and opposition to gay marriage (on the ballots in many States).
Not because of Don King, the sleazy boxing promoter.
So, why are Republicans touting King as their ambassador to Americas Blacks? It’s a slap in the face of this important voting bloc, from whom the Republican Party is finally getting some well-earned notice. They are not attracted to murderers and loan sharks.
Don King is both. And he’s come under repeated investigation for his shenanigans in the under-regulated world of boxing.
In 1966, King beat a man to death on a Cleveland street. The victim’s crime? He owed money to the GOP’s new Black American messiah. Talk about “the tax man cometh.”
King lucked out. He was convicted of second-degree murder, but, for no apparent reason, the judge reduced the conviction from murder to manslaughter. Not only did King serve a short term of 3 1/2 years, he got a pardon from the then Ohio governor.
King’s rap sheet is long. He:
* Was the subject of an FBI probe, uncovering evidence of payoffs, possible racketeering, and King’s "association" with mob figures like John Gotti and Michael Franzese. When questioned during a 1992 Senate investigation about his Gotti connection, King invoked the Fifth Amendment.
* Was indicted on tax fraud and conspiracy in 1984. The president of his promotion company was convicted.
* Was criminally charged, in 1998, for cheating Lloyd's of London out of $350,000 in training expenses for a scheduled Julio Cesar Chavez fight in 1991 that was canceled.
* Was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2000 trial of International Boxing Federation founder Robert W. Lee on 33 counts of bribery, conspiracy, racketeering, fraud and other charges in a federal investigation that uncovered payoffs for ranking fighters.
* Was successfully sued by Heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon. King never paid most of the $900,000 judgment.
* Was sued by Muhammad Ali after his 1980 fight with Larry Holmes, claiming King shortchanged his purse by $1.2 million. He settled for $50,000.
* Tried to manipulate the outcome of a 1990 Tokyo bout, in which Mike Tyson was upset by Buster Douglas.
* Was sued by Tyson for a $100 million, which King allegedly stole from him.
* Falsified fighters records in a heavily promoted 1977 heavyweight boxing match on ABC
Is this a Republican record?
Yesterday, most of his victims were minorities. Today, convicted felon King says President Bush is “committed to reaching out to minorities.” But do minorities want Don King reaching out to them?
Black Americans do not respect Don King much more than they respect Trent Lott. He’s thought of as a bozo, a con artist, and, age 70, well past his prime. Don King is not the Republican antidote to liberal P. Diddy or the anti-Bush NAACP.
So why is he suddenly being so well received by Republicans? And touted by the GOP everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to the young, male-oriented “Jimmy Kimmel Live” show on ABC’s late night schedule?
Maybe it has something to do with GOP Chairman Ed Gillespie. The GOP’s new soulful Prince not-so-Charming, King, treated the decidedly non-phat Gillespie to the glamorous life, giving him an intoxicating taste of ephemeral hipness. The Wall Street Journal reports that, in December, King took Gillespie, Gillespie’s son, and Gillespie’s brother to a night of championship boxing in Atlantic City.
Through King, the Gillespie Clan got to meet Denzel Washington, Mike Tyson, and rapper Jay-Z (all Kerry supporters, by the way). King introduced Gillespie to the crowd in between bouts. “He had ringside seats,” the starstruck Republican chairman gushed. “It was fantastic.”
“We struck up a common bond,” King said of Gillespie. Common bond? Gillespie is a wonkish Irish American politico with a normal haircut. As King would say, “Only in America.”
The Republicans badly want to be cool, like the Dems are with MTV’s Choose-or-Lose generation. But stooping to Don King for the holy grail of “street cred” is doomed to failure.
And then there’s King’s sudden financial greasing of the RNC’s campaign skids, to the tune of over $40,000. All perfectly timed to coincide with boxing regulations and oversight that ex-murderer King badly wants defeated, but which are finally gaining momentum in the U.S. Senate after years of no progress.
Luckily, not all Republicans are so easily fooled. Senator John McCain, who wrote the legislation that will finally stop King’s scams, calls King one of “the largest exploiters” of “a system that cries out to be fixed. I think that these people that are using him cannot know anything about his record.”
The choice of Don King as the GOP’s “Soul Man” is also an insult to the many eloquent, brilliant Black commentators in the Republican reserve.
Great minds like Ward Connerly, the brilliant general in the war on racial preferences. Great commentators like Thomas Sowell, the syndicated columnist. Commentators like Larry Elder, not only a syndicated columnist, but a successful nationwide radio and TV host. (He calls himself a libertarian, but helps the GOP significantly with his persuasive viewpoints.)
If the GOP continues to ignore these great Americans in favor of chintzy sideshows like Don King, the party may blow its one chance for electoral entrée into Black America.