See also: National Action Network Jesse Jackson
Alfred Charles Sharpton was born in Brooklyn, New York in October 1954, to comparatively prosperous parents. He demonstrated considerable verbal dexterity at an early age and is reputed to have begun preaching when he was four years old. He was touted as “the wonder-boy preacher” by age 7, when he toured with gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and Pentecostal minister F.D. Washington. Washington personally ordained Sharpton, who idolized Adam Clayton Powell, as a Pentecostal minister when the boy was 10.
That same year, Sharpton’s parents divorced, leaving the youngster and his mother impoverished and reliant on welfare. In the late 1960s, Sharpton joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In 1969 he was appointed as youth director of SCLC's "Operation Breadbasket," an initiative headed by Jesse Jackson which boycotted businesses accused of failing to hire enough black employees. Jackson, moreover, became a mentor to Sharpton.
Supporting a Communist Front and Angela Davis
In the February 9, 1971 edition of the Communist Party USA newspaper Daily World, CPUSA member Stephanie Allan wrote about a pair of recent rallies (in Chicago and in White Plains, New York) which had been held to support a CPUSA front called The Committee to Free Angela Davis. At the time, Davis was in prison for her role in abetting the murder of a California judge. Eliseo Medina was one of the speakers at the Chicago event, while Sharpton addressed the New York rally. According to Stephanie Allan, Sharpton and fellow speaker J.L. Scott “exposed the connection between [the] A&P [Corporation], U.S. monopoly capitalism, racism and imperialism, and related these to the Angela Davis case and the threat to the vital rights of the Black people.”
Also in 1971, Sharpton established the National Youth Movement, an organization that sought to organize young African Americans to push for increased voter registration, cultural awareness, and job-training programs. He would lead the group for the next 17 years.
After attending Brooklyn College for two years, Sharpton dropped out and had no additional higher education or formal seminary training. He soon began working (as a tour manager) for the entertainer James Brown and, later, for boxing promoter Don King. In 1978, Sharpton made an unsuccessful run for the New York State Senate.
Cocaine, Money-Laundering, and the FBI
In early 1983 the FBI was trying to nail boxing promoter Don King on cocaine-dealing charges. Toward that end, an undercover FBI agent—using the name Victor Quintana—arranged a meeting with King on the pretext of discussing a prospective boxing match in the Bahamas. But King, wary of this individual, persuaded his close friend, Al Sharpton, to meet with Quintana instead—i.e., to take Quintana to dinner at a restaurant and try to ascertain what type of person he was. Sharpton did so, accompanied by a friend.
At one point during the meal, Quintana, posing as a former South American druglord who was now seeking to launder money through boxing promotions, told Sharpton: “I know where 10 kilos of cocaine are and we can make some big money on this.” Sharpton's companion, wary of the implications of getting involved in such criminal activity, immediately told Sharpton that this line of discussion was unacceptable and persuaded Sharpton to leave the restaurant with him. Sharpton, intrigued by Quintana's proposition, was hesitant to walk away but ultimately did.
Soon thereafter, Sharpton and his companion met with Quintana a second time, in a hotel room. But when Quintana again raised the subject of cocaine, Sharpton’s friend once more called off the meeting.
After that, Sharpton and Quintana set up a third meeting that would take place in March 1983 without Sharpton's companion, though the reputed mobster Danny Pagano of the Genovese crime family would also be present. At this meeting—which, unbeknownst to Sharpton, was being secretly videotaped by FBI surveillance cameras—Quintana told Sharpton that he could procure cocaine for $35,000 per kilo. Sharpton, wearing a cowboy hat and chomping on an unlit cigar, nodded his head and said, “I hear you.” When Quintana promised Sharpton a 10% finder’s fee if he could arrange the purchase of several kilos, Sharpton referred to an unnamed buyer and said, “If he’s gonna do it, he’ll do it much more than that.”
According to a comprehensive report by TheSmokingGun.com (TSG):
“While Sharpton did not explicitly offer to arrange a drug deal, some investigators thought his interaction with the undercover agent could be construed as a violation of federal conspiracy laws. Though an actual prosecution, an ex-FBI agent acknowledged, would have been 'a reach,' agents decided to approach Sharpton and attempt to 'flip' the activist.... In light of Sharpton’s relationship with Don King, FBI agents wanted his help in connection with the bureau’s three-year-old boxing investigation.”
Thus, one Thursday afternoon in June 1983—three months after his third meeting with Quintana—Sharpton arrived at a Manhattan apartment expecting to meet with him again. Instead he was confronted by men identifying themselves as FBI agents. They showed Sharpton the “cocaine” videotape and warned that he could face criminal charges as a result of that recording. Panicked, Sharpton immediately agreed to cooperate with the FBI by serving as a wired, undercover agent for the Bureau.
In that capacity, Sharpton became known by the FBI as “CI-7”—short for confidential informant No. 7—and began having numerous face-to-face meetings, all recorded, with mob figures from the Gambino and Genovese crime fanilies. TSG reports that “[t]he resulting surreptitious recordings were eventually used to help convict an assortment of Mafia members and associates.”
Sharpton's undercover work with the FBI continued until 1987, when his involvement with the infamous Tawana Brawley case (see below) put an end to his relationship with the Bureau. For comprehensive details of Sharpton's FBI work during the mid-1980s, click here.
The Tawana Brawley Racial Hoax
Sharpton first entered America's national consciousness on a large scale in November 1987, when he injected himself into the case of a 15-year-old black girl named Tawana Brawley, who claimed that she had been abducted and raped by a gang of six whites in Dutchess County, New York. Despite a complete absence of any credible evidence to support Miss Brawley's story, Sharpton assumed the role of special adviser to the girl and thereafter worked closely with her attorneys, C. Vernon Mason (who, later in his career, would be convicted of 66 counts of professional misconduct and disbarred from the legal profession) and Alton Maddox (who has publicly expressed his profound hatred for white people).
Lamenting that their client had fallen prey to “certain elements that have constantly antagonized the black community, including the Ku Klux Klan and law-enforcement personnel,” Sharpton and the Brawley lawyers demanded that New York Governor Mario Cuomo appoint a special prosecutor to the case and publicly charged that “high-level” local law enforcement officials were involved in the crime—an allegation that led to numerous death threats against members of the Dutchess County police department. Sharpton further demanded that New York Attorney General Robert Abrams be removed from the case because of an alleged “relationship” between Abrams and the Dutchess County sheriff who was, according to Sharpton, “a suspect in this case.” Sharpton insisted that there was “absolutely no way” that his client would talk to Abrams. “That’s like asking someone who watched someone killed in the gas chamber to sit down with Mr. Hitler,” he said.
The case dragged on, week after week, with Brawley refusing to speak to even a single investigator—ostensibly because she feared that as an African American she would be unable to get a fair hearing.
Then at a March 1988 news conference, Sharpton and the attorneys fingered Stephen Pagones, Dutchess County’s assistant district attorney, as one of their client’s attackers. When Sharpton was criticized for accusing Pagones without offering a shred of proof, he retorted: "We stated openly that Steven Pagones did it. If we're lying, sue us, so we can go into court with you and prove you did it. Sue us -- sue us right now."
Further accusing district attorney William Grady of trying to cover up Pagones’ involvement in the crime, Sharpton, Mason, and Maddox demanded that Governor Mario Cuomo immediately arrest the two “suspects.” When asked what evidence they could provide to substantiate their charges, Sharpton and his cohorts were evasive, saying only that they would reveal the facts when the time was right.
In a speech he delivered when the Brawley case was dominating news headlines, Sharpton derided his white critics as racists: "They looked up and they saw Maddox, Mason, and Sharpton. What's wrong with them? What was wrong with us was [that] crackers didn't choose us!"
On another occasion, Sharpton appeared on the late Morton Downey's television program and publicly used an anti-gay slur. The incident occurred when Sharpton got into a shouting match with an audience member and yelled, while gesturing to that individual to come up to the stage and fight: “You ain’t nothing! You a punk faggot! Now come on and do something!”
In June 1988, a Sharpton aide named Perry McKinnon stepped forward to make a remarkable series of disclosures. A former police officer, private investigator, and director of security at a Brooklyn Hospital, McKinnon revealed that “Sharpton acknowledged to me early on that ‘The [Brawley] story do sound like bull---t, but it don’t matter. We’re building a movement. This is the perfect issue. Because you’ve got whites on blacks. That’s an easy way to stir up all the deprived people, who would want to believe and who would believe—and all [you’ve] got to do is convince them—that all white people are bad. Then you’ve got a movement.” Explaining that Sharpton was methodically “building an atmosphere” for a race war, McKinnon continued: “Sharpton told me it don’t matter whether any whites did it or not. Something happened to her...even if Tawana done it to herself.” To prove his truthfulness, McKinnon submitted to a lie detector test administered on camera and passed all questions.
In the autumn of 1988, after conducting an exhaustive review of the facts, a grand jury released its report showing beyond any doubt that the entire Tawana Brawley story had been fabricated, and that at least $1 million of New York taxpayers’ money had been spent to investigate a colossal hoax.
Sharpton, however, would concede nothing. He continued to reiterate his claim that Brawley had been brutalized by a gang of whites. In February 1989, he told a Spin magazine interviewer, without the barest shred of proof, that Stephen Pagones had privately confessed to the crime. Sharpton further asserted, falsely, that Brawley’s gang-rape allegations had been confirmed by medical tests whose results were in C. Vernon Mason’s exclusive possession. And finally, for good measure, he lamented that Miss Brawley had tragically fallen prey to a barbaric “white supremist [sic] cult ritual.”
When Stephen Pagones in 1997 sued Sharpton (as well as Maddox and Mason) for defamation of character, Sharpton, under oath, said he could “no longer recall” having made a number of his slanderous accusations against Pagones and other law-enforcement officials years earlier. When asked whether he had made even the slightest attempt to verify Brawley’s allegations about Pagones before going public with them, Sharpton retorted, “I would not engage in sex talk with a 15-year-old girl.”
Pagones won a $345,000 court judgment against Sharpton and his two accomplices, of which Sharpton was responsible for $65,000. But Sharpton, claiming poverty, never paid his debt. When asked in a deposition how he could afford the expensive suits he wore, he replied that he did not own the garments but was merely granted “access” to them as needed. The same, he said, applied to all his other belongings. Ultimately, Sharpton's $65,000 debt was paid (along with $22,000 in interest) in 2001 by a group of wealthy Sharpton supporters.
It should be noted that during the decade prior to Pagones’ long-awaited vindication in court, the former prosecutor had suffered constant stress and anxiety (exacerbated by numerous death threats from Sharpton’s credulous followers) that contributed heavily to the devastating dissolution of Pagones’ marriage and the virtual ruination of his life.
Notably, Sharpton has never apologized for the way he conducted himself throughout the Brawley hoax, because to apologize, he explains, would be “all about submission” to white people eager to “forc[e] a black man coming out of the hardcore ghetto to his knees.” Reflecting on the Brawley case 12 years after it first made headlines, Sharpton said: “If I had to do it again, I’d do it in the same way.”
In October 2013, Sharpton appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program to promote his new book, The Rejected Stone. When MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski raised the issue of the Brawley case, Sharpton replied:
"I think that what I learned in Brawley, and it’s a case where if I was called today by a young lady who made those claims, I would respond the same way, but what I wouldn’t do is get into a back and forth with name calling with the prosecutor, and go for the quick from the hip kind of flippant attitude with the press. You learn to do what you do better….Whereas 25 years ago, it was 'I don’t care what you think, I feel I’m right, I feel I’ve gotta do what I’ve gotta do,' now I’m not talking to the prosecutor."
Asked if he regretted the anguish he caused for the innocent Stephen Pagones, Sharpton answered:
"... Why would I say that I should not come to the defense of someone who had made a claim and those who had accused never would have come forth in the grand jury at that time that we got involved…. Any of the cases we get involved with, we’re not the investigators, but we have the basis of coming in based on we feel there has been a civil rights violation."
Pressed again on whether he would have acted similarly if he had known then what he knew now, Sharpton became animated:
"Well, what do I know now? A grand jury didn’t believe her?... You’ve got to remember the same prosecutor came after me on situations I knew was wrong. Why would I believe the jury that he used there?....Why wouldn’t civil rights leaders respond? That’s what we’re about... I believe that the basis of our involvement, of saying that this prosecutor should have moved forward and brought this into court was absolutely the right position to take, and that’s the position we took."
The Central Park Jogger Case
In April 1989 a 28-year-old white woman, dubbed the "Central Park jogger," was brutally gang-raped and nearly beaten to death in New York's Central Park by a group of black teenagers. Despite the defendants' graphic and detailed confessions, which were captured on videotape and delivered in the presence of their parents or guardians, Sharpton insisted that the boys were innocent victims of "a fit of racial hysteria" that was sweeping the criminal-justice system and all of American society. Charging that the jogger's boyfriend was the real rapist in the case, Sharpton organized protests outside the courthouse where the five suspects were being tried, chanting, "The boyfriend did it!" and smearing the victim as a "whore!" Further, Sharpton appealed for a psychiatrist to examine the victim, saying: "It doesn't even have to be a black psychiatrist." All five suspects were convicted for their involvement in the crime and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 5 to 15 years apiece. Their convictions would later be overturned in 2002 when another man, Matias Reyes, who was already serving a life prison sentence, confessed to having committed the 1989 rape alone. For explicit details about the confessions of the five youths in question -- and about their obvious involvement in the 1989 assault -- click here.
The Yusuf Hawkins Case
On the evening of August 23, 1989, a large group of young white males in Bensonhurst, New York gathered outdoors to inform a local female acquaintance, who was of Italian heritage, that they were displeased about the fact that she was dating a black man. In response, the girl angrily stated that she would arrange for her boyfriend and several of his friends to come to the neighborhood that evening and beat up the whites.
A few blocks away around that same time, a 16-year-old African American named Yusuf Hawkins and three black male friends, who were in the area responding to a used-car ad, had just gotten off a subway but were unsure whether they had disembarked at the correct stop. Unfamiliar with the neighborhood, they decided to seek out their intended destination on foot. But when the aforementioned group of white males saw the them, they (the whites) mistakenly thought that the blacks were those of whom the white girl had spoken. Thus the whites approached the blacks, threatened them, and began swinging baseball bats at them. The conflict eventually escalated to a point where one of the whites drew a handgun and fatally shot Hawkins in the heart.
Al Sharpton spoke at Hawkins's funderal service a few days later and said, "I don't know who shot Yusuf, but the system loaded the gun." Exhorting the black community to put aside factional differences "and protect our own," Sharpton vowed that someone would be punished for what had happened: "I want you to know, Yusuf, we're not going to let you down. They're going to pay this time." "Never Again," he added.
Forming the National Action Network
In 1991 Sharpton formed the National Action Network (NAN), whose platform "revolves around activism against racial profiling, police brutality, women’s issues, economic reform, public education, international affairs, including abolishing slavery in Africa, job awareness, AIDS awareness, and more."
Emphasizing the urgent need for aggressive left-wing activism, Sharpton during this period derided moderate black politicians with close ties to the Democratic Party as "cocktail-sip Negroes" or "yellow niggers."
The Anti-Semitic Riots in Crown Heights
In the summer of 1991, Sharpton injected himself into the unrest that followed an August 19 incident where a Hasidic Jewish driver had accidentally run over and killed a 7-year-old black boy named Gavin Cato in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York. Scarcely three hours after that accident, a mob of local blacks seeking retribution hunted down and murdered a 29-year-old Australian-born rabbinical student named Yankel Rosenbaum, who was not in any way involved in Cato's death. Shortly thereafter, Sharpton exploited the interracial angle of the boy's death to further fan the flames of racial animus. He organized angry protest demonstrations and challenged local Jews to “pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house” to settle the score if they were displeased with his actions.
Stirred, in part, by Sharpton's contentious anger, hundreds of Crown Heights blacks subsequently took to the streets for three days and nights of violent rioting. Sharpton reacted to the chaos by repeatedly shouting the mantra, “No justice, no peace!” “We must not reprimand our children for outrage,” he declared, “when it is the outrage that was put in them by an oppressive system.”
Years later, Norman Rosenbaum, brother of the murdered Yankel Rosenbaum, reflected on the events of August 1991: "Based on everything we have seen and read, Sharpton never called upon the rioters to stop their anti-Semitism-inspired violence. He never called on the rioters to go home." Rosenbaum elaborated:
"The riots were the product of anti-Semites taking advantage of the tragic death of a child to justify inflicting their violence on innocent people -- the Jewish community of Crown Heights -- and murdering Yankel Rosenbaum, a Jew from Australia, amid the cries of 'Kill the Jew!'"
Notwithstanding the mass violence that had engulfed Crown Heights in the wake of Gavin Cato's death, Sharpton, delivering the eulogy at the boy's funeral on August 26, persisted with his racially charged rhetoric. He told the mourners, for instance, that it was not merely a car accident that had killed the child, but rather the "social accident" of "an apartheid [Jewish] ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights" that allegedly did not care enough to do everything in its power to help black victims in need. Added Sharpton:
"Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. The issue is not anti-Semitism; the issue is apartheid.... All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no coffee klatsch, no skinnin' and grinnin'. Pay for your deeds."
Failed Senate Bid
Sharpton ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1992 and 1994, and he received 32 percent of the vote in the 1997 Democratic mayoral primary in New York City.
Sharpton Derides Mayor Dinkins As a "Ni**er Whore"
During the administration (1989-93) of New York City mayor David Dinkins (an African American), Sharpton angrily denounced Dinkins (when the latter was unsupportive of Sharpton's activism) in the following terms:
“David Dinkins, you wanna be the only ni**er on television, only ni**er in the newspaper, only ni**er that can talk. Don’t cover them, don’t talk to them, ’cause you got the only ni**er problem. ‘Cause you know if a black man stood up next to you, they would see you for the whore that you really are.” (Click here for audio.)
On another occasion, Sharpton referred to Dinkins as "that ni**er whore turning tricks in City Hall."
Becoming a Baptist Minister
In 1994 Sharpton was re-baptized into the Baptist faith and became a minister of that denomination.
The Racist Kean College Speech
Also in 1994, Sharpton delivered an incendiary speech at New Jersey’s Kean College, where he said:
“White folks was in the cave while we [blacks] was building empires … We built pyramids before Donald Trump ever knew what architecture was … we taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.”
Sharpton subsequently explained that while his use of the word “homos” may have been “irresponsible,” it “is not a homophobic term”
The Kean College speech also featured Sharpton explaining that America’s founders consisted of “the worst criminals, the rejects they sent from Europe ... to the colonies.” “So [if] some cracker,” he continued, “come and tell you ‘Well, my mother and father blood go back to the Mayflower,’ you better hold you pocket. That ain’t nothing to be proud of, that means their forefathers was crooks.” Sharpton later defended his use of the word “cracker,” calling it merely a “colloquial term used to describe a certain kind of bigot, who hates both blacks and Jews. It’s certainly not a racist term and certainly not an anti-Semitic term, because a cracker hates Jews and blacks.”
Million Man March
In 1995 Sharpton -- along with such notables as Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright -- helped organize Louis Farrakhan's October 16th Million Man March.
The Deadly Boycott of Freddy's Fashion Mart
Also in 1995, Sharpton led his NAN in a racially charged boycott against Freddy’s Fashion Mart, a Jewish-owned business in Harlem. The boycott started when Freddy’s owners announced that because they wanted to expand their own business, they would no longer sublet part of their store to a black-owned record shop. The street leader of the boycott, Morris Powell, was also the head of Sharpton’s “Buy Black” Committee. Powell and his fellow protesters repeatedly and menacingly told passersby not to patronize the “crackers” and "the greedy Jew bastards [who are] killing our [black] people." Some boycotters openly threatened violence against whites and Jews––all under the watchful, approving eye of Sharpton, who referred to the proprietors of Freddy's as "white interlopers." The subsequent picketing became ever-more menacing in its tone until one of the participants eventually shot (non-fatally) four whites inside the store and then set the building on fire––killing seven employees, most of whom were Hispanics.
Appearance at a Socialist Scholars Conference
In 1998 Sharpton was a featured speaker at the Socialist Scholars Conference in New York.
Speaker at the Million Youth March
Along with Malik Zulu Shabazz and Khalid Abdul Muhammad, Sharpton co-organized an infamous September 5, 1998 "Million Youth March" which was held in Harlem, New York and was sponsored by the New Black Panther Party. The event drew about 6,000 people and ended in clashes between the attendees and city police. Just prior to the rally, Shabazz had threatened to kill any police officers who might be tempted to "interfere" with the proceedings. Then, in his address to the marchers, Shabazz stated: "The only solution any time there is a funeral in the black community, is a funeral in the police community." "I don't care what the Jews say," he added. "You [blacks] are the only people that have been in bondage for over 400 years. You are the true chosen people of God, and it is not the so-called Jew."
Sharpton, in his remarks to the crowd, praised former Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammed as well as Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, and Khallid Abdul Muhammad. Moreover, he vowed not to permit white people to decide which black leaders he should support.
"Redeem the Dream" Rally
In August 2000, Sharpton held a "Redeem the Dream" rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, where one the the featured speakers was Malik Zulu Shabazz. At that event, Shabazz called on black young people, including "gang members," to unite against their "common enemy" -- "white America" and its allegedly racist police departments. He also articulated a "black dream that when we see caskets rolling in the black community … we will see caskets and funerals in the community of our enemy as well."
Sharpton's Closeness to Khalid Abdul Muhammad
In February 2001, when the infamous anti-Semite and racist Khalid Abdul Muhammad died in a hospital as a result of a brain aneurysm he had suffered, Sharpton was at Muhammed’s side. He then gave Muhammed’s family $10,000 to help cover his funeral expenses.
Characterizing White Republicans As Racists
In a May 2003 speech sponsored by Harvard Law School, Sharpton characterized Republicans as racists who “cut taxes for the rich while [they] strangle the poor”; he likened black Republicans Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to subservient house slaves; he called for “$50 billion a year” in tax hikes so that America could “invest in working-class people, not multi-billionaires”; he proclaimed that “white male land owners” were in control of the United States; and he asserted that the descendants of the white men who “used to buy [blacks], now they rent 'em.”
Failed Presidential Campaign
A harsh critic of the Iraq War and the Patriot Act (which he called "unpatriotic" and "illegitimate" legislation), Sharpton campaigned for the U.S. presidency in 2004. Though his candidacy was unsuccessful, the Democratic Party establishment allowed him to speak in the prime-time slot on the third day of its national convention.
Supporting Cindy Sheehan
In August 2005 Sharpton visited activist Cindy Sheehan in Crawford, Texas to show support for her anti-war, anti-Bush protest campaign.
Speech at an Anti-War Rally Organized by Pro-Communist Coalitions
On September 24, 2005, Sharpton spoke at the "Call to United Mass Action," an anti-Iraq War rally in Washington, DC that was co-organized by International ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice. Other speakers at the event, which was attended by an estimated 300,000 people, included Brian Becker, Michael Berg, Mahdi Bray, Ramsey Clark, Cindy Sheehan, George Galloway, Larry Holmes, Dolores Huerta, Ralph Nader, Elias Rashmawi, Michael Shehadeh, and Lynne Stewart.
The Duke Lacrosse Case
In March 2006, a black stripper accused three white members of the Duke University lacrosse team of having beaten, raped and sodomized her during an off-campus party. These charges triggered an instantaneous eruption of outrage among left-wing civil-rights activists. Sharpton, for his part, declared that these ”rich white boys” had attacked a ”black girl,” and warned that if arrests were not made immediately, there would be no peace. He further claimed that "this case parallels Abner Louima, who was raped and sodomized in a bathroom [by a New York City police officer] like this girl has alleged she was.... and just like in the Louima case, you have people here saying she fabricated it...." It later became evident, however, that the plaintiff's charges were indeed entirely fabricated, and all charges against the defendants were dropped.
When Mitt Romney, a Mormon, ran for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, Sharpton said: “As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don’t worry about that; that’s a temporary situation.”
Charging Racism in Major League Baseball's Steroid Investigations
In February 2008, Sharpton asserted that the federal government was seeking to prosecute black athletes more aggressively than white athletes in scandals over their alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. Specifically, Sharpton claimed that members of Congress, in their recent questioning of white pitcher Roger Clemens, had acted as if "they were at a fan club meeting," as compared to the allegedly harsher treatment which black outfielder Barry Bonds was receiving. "You've got to understand that the fight has always been about the criminalization of black men," said Sharpton.
Supporting Barack Obama
In March 2008, Sharpton, a strong supporter of Barack Obama's presidential candidacy, stated that he was accustomed to speaking with Obama on a regular basis -- "two or three times a week."
Shakedowns and Extortions
Sharpton often threatens to organize black boycotts of corporations, on grounds that they supposedly discriminate against African Americans. Those companies, in turn -- terrified of such boycotts and negative publicity -- typically try to mollify Sharpton with cash; sometimes they even hire him as a paid consultant. For example:
Rudin: “[Ask him] Would he like to finance some movies?”
Pascal: “I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?” [Django Unchained]
Rudin: “12 YEARS.” [Twelve Years a Slave]
Pascal: “Or the butler. Or think like a man?” [The Butler and Think Like a Man]
Because Pascal and Rudin, in these remarks, were suggesting that Obama would most likely be interested only in movies with African-American themes or characters, Sharpton expressed displeasure over the supposedly racist tone of their exchange. Almost immediately, Pascal and Rudin -- who, according to sources, were “shaking in their boots” and “afraid of the Rev” -- agreed to meet with Sharpton. That meeting resulted in a deal whereby Sony pledged to form a “working group” to focus on racial bias in Hollywood.
The New York Post subsequently reported: "Sharpton notably did not publicly assert his support for Pascal after the meeting—what observers say seems like a typical Sharpton 'shakedown' in the making. Pay him in cash or power, critics say, and you buy his support or silence." Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal & Policy Center, said: “Al Sharpton has enriched himself and NAN for years by threatening companies with bad publicity if they didn’t come to terms with him. Put simply, Sharpton specializes in shakedowns.” And a source who had previously worked with Sharpton, stated: “Once Sharpton’s on board, he plays the race card all the way through. He just keeps asking for more and more money.”
Violating Federal Election Laws
In April 2009, Sharpton and his NAN were fined $285,000 for having violated election rules during Sharpton's 2004 presidential bid. According to the Federal Election Commission:
The National Action Network's Overdue Payroll Taxes
Though Sharpton's National Action Network (NAN) owed some $1.1 million in overdue payroll taxes as of 2009, Sharpton at that time began collecting a salary of $250,000 from the organization. An August 2014 Treasury Department report indicated that only 1,200 groups in the United States owed more than $100,000 in unpaid payroll taxes, meaning that NAN ranked among the most delinquent nonprofits in the country.
Calling for Economic Equality
On May 2, 2010, Sharpton addressed a church congregation in Danbury, Connecticut, where he said that the late Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream "was not to put one black president in the White House," but rather "to make everything equal in everybody’s house."
The Trayvon Martin Case
Sharpton reacted passionately to a February 26, 2012 incident in Sanford, Florida, in which a "white Hispanic" neighborhood-watch captain named George Zimmerman shot and killed a 17-year-old African American named Trayvon Martin. When subsequent reports suggested that Martin had merely been in Zimmerman's neighborhood to purchase a bag of Skittles at a local shop, Sharpton said:
“It is an unbelievable burden, and hard to articulate, that [if you are black] you’re born automatically a suspect, and you have to operate and behave in a way that does not exacerbate or incite someone’s paranoia. We have come so far in this country that we can put a black man in the White House, but we can’t walk a black child down the neighborhood street to get a bag of Skittles.”
When Zimmerman was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in a July 2013 trial, Sharpton blasted the verdict as an “atrocity” and “a slap in the face to those that believe in justice in this country.” Moreover, Sharpton announced that he and his National Action Network would soon be "mobilizing" protests in 100 U.S. cities.
Speaking to the Council on American-Islamic Relations
In September 2012, Sharpton was a guest speaker at the annual fundraising banquet of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), where he called CAIR "one of the most important civil-rights organizations in the United States today." Emphasizing that civil-rights activism on behalf of blacks was inextricably linked to similar activism on behalf of Muslims, he declared: "The same haters that talk about burning Korans, were [once] burning crosses on the lawns of blacks in the South." Also addressing the 2012 CAIR convention was Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Two years later, Sharpton keynoted the 2014 incarnation of this same CAIR event.
Likening Republicans to Hitler
On May 25, 2012, Sharpton told a radio audience that Republicans view black people as subhumans, much as Adolf Hitler saw Jews:
"It seems like they [some of the right wing] act as though some wiping out of people ... is alright. It's not alright to do to any innocent people.... [T]o wipe out innocent people just 'cause of who they are, like was done in Hitler's Germany, or was done to Native Americans, is not justified."
Strategizing with Obama to Push Tax Hikes on the Wealthy
On December 4, 2012, Sharpton and several other "influential progressive" advisors (as described by White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest) met with President Barack Obama to strategize on how to best sell the American public on the need to raise taxes on people earning $250,000 or more, while extending the Bush-era tax cuts for all other U.S. residents. Also in attendance at the meeting were MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell and Ed Schultz, and Arianna Huffington.
Later in December 2012, Sharpton spoke out publicly about a recent incident where a deranged gunman had shot and killed 26 people (including 20 children) at a Connecticut elementary school. Calling for stricter gun control measures, he said: "In any civilized society, you do not see massacres continue to happen ... and you keep the same laws when clearly they're not working." A questioner then asked Sharpton, "What happens when the criminal goes to knives?" Sharpton replied: "Then you deal with knives. The same thing you do if you have a head cold, and the cold is gone and you have a headache. Then you take headache medicine."
Claiming that President Obama's Likeness Belongs on Mount Rushmore
In January 2013, Sharpton stated that Barack Obama was at least as deserving as President Theodore Roosevelt of having his likeness appear on Mount Rushmore: "[Obama] stopped two wars and the whole question of finance reform on Wall Street and health care. I mean, he has done some concrete things.... [A] lot of people could say that Teddy Roosevelt was more of a character than a transformative president. I can name, literally, things that President Obama has done. Now, I’m going to say that if Teddy Roosevelt is the measure, I think it strengthens the case for President Obama."
Addressing the "Knockout Game"
In the fall of 2013, media outlets like Breitbart News, Truth Revolt, and Fox News reported extensively on the growing prevalence of the so-called "knockout game," whereby groups of black teenagers were targeting defenseless and unsuspecting white, Jewish, and Asian pedestrians and blindsiding them with roundhouse punches designed to render the victims unconscious. Accomplices to the perpetrators commonly captured these attacks on video and posted them, as a form of celebration, to the website YouTube. Hundreds of these knockout-game incidents had occurred in cities nationwide since 2010. Many had resulted in serious injuries, and in several cases the victims had died.
On November 22, 2013, former U.S. Congressman Allen West, a black conservative, publicly criticized Sharpton for his silence on the knockout game. The very next day, Sharpton spoke out against the violence, saying: “If someone was running around talking about knocking out blacks, we would not be silent. We cannot be silent.” Two days later, Sharpton penned an op-ed in the Huffington Post denouncing the "racist" and "inhumane" behavior that "in many cases specifically target[s] Jewish folks" and "has no place in our country or the world." He further condemned the practice as a "deplorable, reprehensible and inexcusable" form of "insane thuggery."
Sharpton Embraces Convicted Voter-Fraud Perpetrator at Anti-Voter ID Rally
Sharpton was the keynote speaker at a March 2014 event condemning Voter ID laws and honoring Melowese Richardson, an Ohio poll worker convicted of voter fraud, as what one Democrat executive called "a martyr." Firmly convinced that Barack Obama had earned the “right to sit [a second term] as president of the United States,” Richardson in 2012: (a) voted twice in her own name and three times on behalf of her comatose sister; (b) filled out and mailed an absentee ballot on behalf of her granddaughter, who subsequently voted in person on election day; and (c) was likely responsible for three additional absentee ballots generated from her home address, all of which bore similar handwriting. (Richardson was originally sentenced to a five-year prison term for these crimes, though that punishment was later reduced to mere probation after Democratic activists pressed for leniency.)
Sharpton's Reaction to the Death of Eric Garner
Sharpton became deeply involved in the protests that followed a July 17, 2014 incident where a 43-year old African American named Eric Garner died in Staten Island, New York, after having resisted several white police officers' efforts to arrest him for illegally selling “loosies,” single cigarettes from packs without tax stamps. One of the officers at the scene put his arms around the much taller Garner's neck and took him down to the ground with a headlock/chokehold. While lying facedown on the sidewalk surrounded by four officers, Garner repeatedly said, "I can't breathe." A black female NYPD sergeant supervised the entire altercation and never ordered that officer to release the hold. Garner was pronounced dead approximately an hour later at a local hospital. City medical examiners subsequently concluded that he had died as a result of an interplay between the police officer’s hold and Garner’s multiple chronic infirmities, which included bronchial asthma, heart disease, obesity, and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.
On August 24, 2014 in New York City, Sharpton led at least 2,500 marchers in a rally condemning “a society where police are automatically excused” for wrongdoing.
Chaos after White Police Officer Kills Black Teen in Missouri
Shortly after a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri had shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old black male named Michael Brown on August 9, 2014 in circumstances that were not yet clear, violent riots and looting erupted in that town for a number of days and nights. On August 12, Sharpton himself arrived in Ferguson and demanded that the officer who had shot Brown be brought to justice.
Noting that a witness had stated that Brown had his hands raised above his head just prior to being shot, Sharpton said on August 17: "We know that this was an execution. This [hands up] means 'Surrender! Don't shoot!' And the most hardened criminals in history, when they put their hands up, we didn't execute them."
In a speech that same day at Greater Grace Church in St. Louis, Sharpton emphasized, “We…have…had…enough!” And he urged people who agreed with him to make their feelings known at the ballot box in November. “Nobody can go to the White House until they stop by our house!” he thundered.
Also on August 17, Sharpton addressed a large gathering at the Greater St. Marks Family Church, where he condemned the police department's recent release of a store surveillance video showing Michael Brown forcibly robbing a convenience store just minutes before he was fatally shot. Said Sharpton:
"Michael Brown is gone. You can run whatever video you want. He is not on trial. America is on trial! I have never in all my years seen something as offensive and insulting as a police chief releasing a tape of a young man, trying to smear him before we even have his funeral.
"America as a nation, Missouri as a state, Ferguson as a city, is at a defining moment on whether or not we know and are mature enough to handle policing — whether it goes over the line or not. We cannot lecture nations around the world about how they handle policing and we have an inability of handling it in our own nation. All policemen are not bad; most policemen are not bad. But all of them are not right all the time. And when they're wrong, they must pay for being wrong just like citizens pay when they're wrong....
"Looting is wrong. We condemn the looters. But when will law enforcement condemn police who shoot and kill our young people? We got to be honest on both sides of this discussion."
When compelling ballistic, eyewitness, and forensic evidence eventually (in late October 2014) indicated that Michael Brown in fact had assaulted the officer and tried to steal his gun just prior to the fatal shooting, Sharpton's outrage over the incident—and his determination to make it the focal point of a civil-rights crusade—was undiminished.
And when a grand jury announced on November 24, 2014 that it would not indict the officer who had gunned down Michael Brown—because of overwhelming evidence indicating that the shooting was done in self-defense—Sharpton denounced the entire grand jury process and condemned the prosecutor for trying to "discredit a young teenager [Michael Brown] who can't speak for himself." Charging that police brutality "is a problem all over the country," Sharpton announced that he would soon be convening an "emergency civil rights leadership meeting" in Washington; that he and other activists would devise "a plan that will constructively help to change this nation"; and that he would pursue an "ongoing strategy" of "mass and regular marches, legislation, and economic boycotts" to keep the issue of police misconduct against African Americans in the public spotlight. Stating that "Michael Brown has lit a new energy for police accountability" in the United States, Sharpton added: "We may have lost one round, but the fight is not over."
Sharpton Is Outraged by the Grand Jury Decision Not to Indict the Officer Who Had the July 2014 Altercation with Eric Garner
On December 3, 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who had been involved in the aforementioned altercation that ultimately resulted in the death of black New Yorker Eric Garner more than four months earlier. In response to that decision, an outraged Sharpton said: "We want the justice department and the federal government to deal with the fact that the grand jury systems on a state level are broken."
Sharpton Is Rebuffed by the Grieving Family of Another Black New Yorker Who Died As a Result of Police Gunfire
In late November and early December 2014, Sharpton put out press releases indicating that he would deliver the eulogy at the funeral of the late Akai Gurley -- a 28-year-old African American who had been shot and killed on November 20 by a rookie NYPD officer who fired his gun blindly into the darkness of an unlit stairwell in a Brooklyn housing project.
But Sharpton never consulted Gurley's family regarding the matter. Then, on December 5, the family instructed Sharpton to keep his “circus” and “chaos” away from the funeral altogether. “It’s been a nightmare,” Gurley’s aunt told the New York Post. “He just wants to take credit for this when he’s never even contacted my sister [Gurley’s mother]. Who made you [Sharpton] the spokesperson of our family? We just want to bury our nephew with dignity and respect.... How can you do a eulogy for someone you don’t even know? It’s heartbreaking.” Depicting Sharpton as a publicity hound who felt no genuine concern for her dead nephew, the woman also said, “There is no piece of the pie for Mr. Sharpton here.” She then added that whenever Sharpton becomes involved in tragic cases, “It’s not pretty — there’s confusion.... It’s about control and power. We’re not here for that.”
Sharpton's Status As President Obama's Chief Advisor on Racial Issues
In August 2014, Politico.com published a feature story titled, “How Al Sharpton Became Obama's Go-To Man on Race.” The piece stated that “Sharpton not only visits the White House frequently, he often texts or emails with senior Obama officials such as [Valerie] Jarrett and Attorney General Eric Holder.” It quoted Jesse Jackson saying, “I’ve known Al since he was 12 years old, and he’s arrived at the level he always wanted to arrive at, which is gratifying. He’s the man who’s the liaison to the White House, he’s the one who’s talking to the Justice Department.” Sharpton himself, meanwhile, offered his own assessment of how he had bonded with Obama: “The relationship evolved over time.... The key for him was seeing that I wasn’t insincere, that I actually believed in the stuff I was talking about.”
Sharpton Advises Obama on Naming Replacement for Eric Holder
On September 24, 2013, Eric Holder announced that he would be resigning from his post as Attorney General as soon as a successor could be named and confirmed by the Senate. Immediately after Holder's announcement, Sharpton said that his own civil rights organization, the National Action Network, was already "engaged in immediate conversations with the White House on deliberations over a successor whom we hope will continue in the general direction of Attorney General Holder." "The resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder is met with both pride and disappointment by the Civil Rights community," added Sharpton. "We are proud that he has been the best Attorney General on Civil Rights in U.S. history, and disappointed because he leaves at a critical time when we need his continued diligence most."
TV and Radio
In addition to his social activism, Sharpton is also a broadcaster. In July 2011 he replaced Cenk Uygur as the host of a nightly MSNBC news/talk television program titled Politics Nation. Moreover, he hosts his own daily radio program, Keepin' It Real with Al Sharpton, which began airing in January 2006. And he hosts a weekly radio show titled Hour of Power on Sunday nights.
As of 2013, Sharpton earned an annual salary of just over $241,000 from the National Action Network (NAN), even while the organization was $1.1 million in debt. His exact MSNBC salary has not been publicly disclosed, but it is believed to be a six-figure sum that exceeds his income from NAN. In August 2014, CelebrityNetWorth.com listed Sharpton's net worth as being $5 million.
Sharpton Raises $1 Million at His 60th Birthday Party
At a high-profile 60th birthday celebration he held at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City on October 1, 2014, Sharpton raised $1 million in donations from unions as well as corporations like AT&T, McDonald’s, Verizon, and Walmart.
Millions of Dollars in Tax Liens
In November 2014, a New York Times investigation reported that Sharpton had more than $4.5 million in tax liens against him and his businesses. His National Action Network (NAN), for instance, owed approximately $1.1 million in overdue payroll taxes. Moreover, Sharpton had repeatedly failed to pay money that he owed to hotels, travel agencies, and landlords. Indeed he had been sued twice by his landlord for a cumulative $98,000, and had relied on friends and his nonprofit to pay his daughter’s education expenses.
A January 2015 financial statement showed that NAN had generated more than $4.9 million in revenues during 2014 -- mostly through corporate sponsorships -- but the organization's spending had outpaced its revenues for the year by some $264,000. This deficit pushed NAN's total tax liabilities to $1.337 million. According to a financial statement prepared by NAN’s accountant in November 2014, the group had recently “negotiated an installment agreement” requiring it to pay $15,000-per-month for five years to pay off its tax debt.
Accusing the Academy Awards of Racism
In January 2015, Sharpton called for an emergency meeting of his eight-member diversity task force to discuss the possibility of taking some type of "action" against the Academy Awards after Selma, a film about the 1965 Voting Rights Act, received only one nomination for an Oscar ("Best Picture"), while for the second time since 2000, no blacks were nominated in the four individual acting categories. Said Sharpton: "In the time of Staten Island and Ferguson [a reference to the deaths of two black men in 2014, after confrontations they had with white police officers], to have one of the most shutout Oscar nights in recent memory is something that is incongruous." Through his National Action Network, Sharpton also released the following statement:
"The lack of diversity in today’s Oscar nominations is appalling and while it is good that Selma was nominated for ‘Best Picture,’ it’s ironic that they nominated a story about the racial shutout around voting while there is a racial shutout around the Oscar nominations. With all of the talent in Selma and other Black movies this year, it is hard to believe that we have less diversity in the nominations today than in recent history. National Action Network (NAN) has formed a task force on the movie industry to deal with diversity as I engage in dialogue with Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal. The movie industry is like the Rocky Mountains, the higher you get, the whiter it gets. I have called an emergency meeting early next week in Hollywood with the task force to discuss possible action around the Academy Awards."
John Nolte of Breitbart.com offered a highly effective response to Sharpton's charge that the Academy Award nominations were influenced by racism.
 Sharpton was not the only person involved in the Brawley case to be required by a court to pay restitution to Pagones. Indeed, Alton Maddox was found liable for $97,000, C. Vernon Mason for $188,000, and Ms. Brawley herself was ordered in 1998 to pay Pagones more than $190,000 plus 9 percent annual interest. The woman, however, made no payments at all on that debt until 2013, at which time a Virgina court forced her to begin paying Pagones $627 each month in garnisheed wages. By then, she owed the former district attorney a total of $431,492. Notably, Pagones indicated that he would be willing to forgive the debt if Brawley were to publicly admit that her 1987 accusations against him were fabricated.
 Sharpton himself eventually (in 2011) acknowledged that during the 1991 riots, he had not made any statements to indicate "that there was no justification or excuse for violence or for the death of Yankel Rosenbaum."
 Jonathan Mahler, “Sharpton’s Image As New Moderate Dimmed by Video,” Forward (December 22, 1995), p. 4. (Click here for audio.)