‘No, It’s Actually My Time’: GOP Congressman Turns Hearing on Policing Into Heated Tit-for-Tat With Al Sharpton

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When a white Republican congressman turned questioning at a House Judiciary Committee on policing into a lengthy tit-for-tat with both the chairman and civil rights activist Al Sharpton, the Baptist minister refused to back down.

Rep. Matt Gaetz repeatedly cut off Sharpton and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler with questions about whether Sharpton made anti-Semitic and derogatory statements in the past.

“Can I finish my answer?” Sharpton asked when the cut him off repeatedly.

“No, it’s actually my time, but you will be able …” the Florida congressman answered at one point.

The frequent exchanges prompted Nadler to bang his gavel at several points during the meeting.

Each time Sharpton was questioned, he denied making the statements or further explained them, and Gaetz — himself a fierce defender of Donald Trump despite the president’s repeated comments deemed as bigoted or racist — continued questioning.

Even a shortened version of the exchange, which Gaetz posted Friday on Twitter lasted close to 14 minutes.

The back-and-forth applauded on social media by right-wing commentators and politicians was for many Democrats at the meeting a distraction.

The hearing included testimony from activists, including retired tennis star James Blake and Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a white New York City police officer in 2014.

Related: ‘You Cannot Scare Me Away:’ Eric Garner’s Mom Challenges Plan to Appeal Pantaleo’s Firing

Blake has advocated against police brutality after a New York City police officer mistook him for a suspect and allegedly used excessive force in detaining him in 2015 in a case of mistaken identity.

The activists are calling on Congress to support legislation that would make police chokeholds illegal under federal law.

However, Gaetz’s questioning in the video he posted online didn’t focus on the legislation.

The congressman began by quoting from a congressional resolution introduced in 2000 by then-congressman Joe Scarborough entitled “Condemning the racist and anti-Semitic views of the Reverend Al Sharpton.”

He asked Sharpton if it’s true that “he has referred to members of the Jewish faith as bloodsucking Jews and Jew bastards.”

“They are patently untrue,” Sharpton reponded. “I never said that and what — ”

“OK,” Gaetz interrupted.

It wasn’t long before Nadler was faced with having to wrangle in the tit-for-tat and Gaetz interrupted him.

“Since aspersions were cast on the witness, the witness will be permitted — ” Nadler said, and Gaetz started talking.

“No, I’m sorry, Mr. chairman, aspersions weren’t cast,” he said.

“First of all, this has nothing to do with policing,” Sharpton said at one point. “Since he wants to make the subject Joe Scarborough and I, then let me answer it.”

The questioning continued.

“Have you ever referred to members of the Jewish faith as ‘white interlopers’ or ‘diamond merchants,’” Gaetz asked.

Sharpton, who now appears regularly on Scarborough’s MSNBC program “Morning Joe,” replied that he had referred to one person in Harlem as an “interloper,” but that he didn’t know the person was Jewish at the time.

Gaetz also asked Sharpton whether he made the statement:

“We [Africans] taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.”

Sharpton responded, after being pressed, “I think that any statement I’ve made that was wrong. … I have clearly said that we should not make bigoted statements, including me.”

At one point in Gaetz’s questioning, Nadler called it “obnoxious” but told committee Democrats that the congressman had latitude under the rules.

Gaetz defended his questions.

“Reverend Sharpton has come before the House Judiciary Committee as a purported expert on policing,” Gaetz said. “Yet his bigoted statements undermine the bipartisan work we should be doing to ensure that all citizens are able to come together and have safe communities.”

He added: “When you call Greek h—s, when you talk about white crackers, these are bigoted statements.”

Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson condemned Gaetz’s behavior as “taking our process down to a level that we should never allow it to descend to.”

“I’m objecting to us wallowing in the mud with these comments,” he said.