Barrett: Al Sharpton Gets an Apology

I owe Al Sharpton an apology. He was in rare form Monday night on NY1, ranting as if he had turned the clock back to his old sweat-suit days (NY1 actually ran classic footage of him in his favorite, all-black outfit). He took several runs at me during this extended interview and did manage to get one thing right. When I posted a blog item about him last Thursday, I didn't call. That's rare for me.

Of course, he hadn't returned numerous messages from me since I did a series about him in 2004, and I posted the blog when he was a little busy, entertaining everyone from the vice president to the governor to the mayor at his annual Sheraton Hotel confab. So I was pretty sure a call would be wasted motion. In any event, after he complained, I did call. To prove my point, I guess, Sharpton never returned it.
The Rev was also half right about something else I did. He pointed out that the comptroller and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson was included in the conference, and spoke twice at conference events. All I wrote in last week's blog was that Thompson was oddly not on the agenda for the three-day conference, while Mike Bloomberg and many associates of the mayor were. Sharpton told NY1 that Thompson didn't confirm his attendance on time and
that's why he didn't appear on the program. Turns out Sharpton was right about that too.

Ed Castell, who's running Thompson's mayoral campaign, told me that Sharpton "offered Bill an opportunity to participate" and that Thompson was trying to synchronize it with competing demands on his schedule and didn't get back to Sharpton on time. I did try to get Castell to talk to me about the omission of Thompson from the program before I wrote and all he would
say was: "We're working on it."

Having given the Rev. his due, let's look at the substance of the NY1 interview. Dominic Carter asked Sharpton about my characterization of him as a "tax dodger," which is pretty hard to deny since the federal and state governments have liens against him for almost $3 million. Sharpton's rushed and garbled explanation of this was that "once there was a fire" at his Harlem headquarters, he "couldn't file" for subsequent years until he and the IRS were able to
straighten out what was owed for the period before the fire. Incredibly, Sharpton is using a fire that occurred in January 2003 to justify gross failures to file and pay taxes that went on for years afterwards, until the tallies hit these astronomical numbers.

He also showered us with a surprising amount of affection, telling NY1 that if he took the Voice seriously, "we would sue" for calling him a tax dodger, adding: "Don't they give out his newspaper?" Most people, observed Sharpton, know that Barrett "is not to be taken too seriously anymore," referring to me as an "old paranoid conspiracy theorist" who "sits around in irrelevance." He also accurately described me as white, saying that the reason "people like me get called strange names from these news rooms" is because "even the left wing press can't find blacks" to write for them.

Sharpton offered no explanation for the similar findings against his 2004 presidential campaign that recently resulted in a half million fine by the Federal Election Commission. In fact, it was my stories in 2004 that were largely replicated in the 26-page denunciation of him published by the FEC last November, which described his "nearly complete failure to produce" any documents or information justifying his illegally financed presidential effort. (By the way, the audit establishes that up to $400,000 in funding for the very organization that sponsored his conference last week, the National Action Network, was diverted to his campaign).

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