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.
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.”
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
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).