Al Sharpton hosts a show for MSNBC and is a public speaker, both of which bring in money for him. However, there are more details behind his finances that have raised some eyebrows – and, it’s just not the money he owes in back taxes or the fact that his ventures are in debt.
Comcast, MSNBC and NBC Universal all directly funded Sharpton’s National Action Network as recently as this September, but Sharpton and the cable giants have done business in the past, as well. In 2010, Sharpton spent time lobbying Congress when Comcast wanted the acquisition of NBC Universal to go through.
The following year, Sharpton was given his own show.
When Sharpton sought involvement in the December 2014 funeral of Akai Gurley, shot by a rookie police officer in the darkened stairwell of a housing project in Brooklyn, New York, Gurley’s family told him to stay away. Sharpton held a news conference condemning the cop and promised to deliver a eulogy at the wake.
Gurley’s aunt said: “Al Sharpton came in, put his name on the situation, but has not even made one single call to the parents of Akai,” adding that all Sharpton sees “is money and political gain and he is turning the tragedy into a circus.”
Sharpton has often sparked controversy with his race-baiting language. During a rally in Brooklyn, he called white people “crackers,” and when Mitt Romney, a Mormon, was running for president in 2007, Sharpton said: “As for the Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyway.”
Sharpton also had financial issues on the personal front, being sued for not paying his rent in 2004 by his landlord to the tune of $56,000 and again in 2007 for another $42,000. It’s unclear what happened to the suit, as neither has commented on it.
In December 2005, Sharpton agreed to repay $100,000 in public funds he received for his 2004 presidential campaign, because he had exceeded federal limits on personal expenditures for his campaign. At that time his most recent Federal Election Commission filings stated his campaign still had debts of $479,050 and owed Sharpton himself $145,146 for an item listed as “Fundraising Letter Preparation — Kinko’s.”
Also in 2005, Sharpton appeared in three TV commercials for LoanMax, an automobile title loan firm that charged fees that was the equivalent of 372-percent APR loans. When asked about the television commercials he made, Sharpton said: “I don’t understand why it’s wrong for the little guy with no credit not to be able to get money. If I felt this is in any way abusive, I would stop doing the ads. ”
Sharpton landed in jail for 90 days in 2001 on trespassing charges stemming from his protest against U.S. military target practice exercises in Puerto Rico. Sharpton got involved in the demonstrations at Camp Garcia after a person died and four others wounded in April 1999, when the Navy accidentally dropped bombs near where they worked.
In 1995, an African-American Pentecostal church in Harlem, New York, asked a Jewish tenant of one of its properties, Freddie’s Fashion Mart, to evict a black-run record store that was subletting part of the property. Sharpton showed up outside Freddie’s vowing to a crowd: “We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.”
Two weeks before Christmas that year, a man attacked Freddie’s, shooting several customers and then setting fire to the building, killing seven employees. Sharpton later apologized for his “white interloper” remark, but denied responsibility for the violence.
Speaking at Kean College in 1994, Sharpton referred to gay men as ‘homos,’ saying “White folks was [sic] in caves while we was building empires. We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.”
When cornered about the comment, he claimed to be misquoted and deflected the issue of gay rights onto the Republican Party.
“Well, first of all, I don’t know that you’re quoting me properly or not. But let’s talk about the issue of homosexuality. Let’s talk about how many Republicans are not dealing with the problems that we’re even facing today with fellow churchmen of mine, who are trying to act as if homosexuals are the cause, rather than pedophiles are the cause.”
In 2003, Sharpton found himself called out for the remark, and responded by saying: “Homo is not a homophobic term, but I think even the reference is irresponsible and I don’t do that any longer.”
In recent years, Sharpton has been one who has called for the “n-word” to be banned. But he called New York’s first black Mayor, David Dinkins, that word.
“You wanna be the only nigger on television. The only nigger in the newspapers. The only nigger that can talk. Don’t cover them, don’t talk to them, cause you got the only nigger problem. Cause you know, if a black man stood up next to you, they would see you for the whore that you really are.”
Later in the speech, Sharpton would crack jokes about “Chinamen, Koreans, and Crackers.”
“We’re the black chicken friers of the universe. We gonna go buy some Colonel Sanders chicken. Then the Chinamen comin…Koreans sell us watermelons. We eat watermelons all our lives. But they gonna come cut it up, put it in a bucket with a rubber band around it, and we gonna buy it like it’s somethin’ and we didn’t know what it was.”
In 1993, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for failing to file a state income tax return and fined $5,000 with an order to file his 1986 tax paperwork. Of course the New York Time’s painted a different picture, reporting, “The settlement concluded a lengthy conflict between Mr. Sharpton and Attorney General Robert Abrams, opponents in the 1992 Democratic primary for United States Senate.”
After a car in a Hasidic rabbi’s motorcade killed a 7-year-old black boy in Brooklyn in 1991, Sharpton referred to the Hasidic Jews as “diamond merchants” and said “if the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” Shortly afterward, a mob attacked an innocent Hasidic Jewish student visiting from Australia, stabbing him to death.
Again, Sharpton refused to accept responsibility for the violence.
In 1990, a jury acquitted Sharpton of felony charges that he stole $250,000 from a youth group. During a victory party afterwards, Sharpton declared that his acquittal would ”change the political landscape.”
Sharpton said in 1988 that he worked with the government to stem the flow of crack cocaine into black neighborhoods. However, in 2002, HBO aired a 19-year-old FBI videotape of an undercover sting operation showing Sharpton as a government informant for the FBI, while an agent poses as a Latin American businessman and a reputed Columbo crime family captain.
The year before, the reverend accused an upstate New York prosecutor, Steven Pagones, of being part of a group of white men who raped teenager Tawana Brawley in 1987. A grand jury found “overwhelming evidence” that the rape allegation were false.
Pagones sued Sharpton for defamation and won a judgment of $65,000. Sharpton paid the judgment with money raised by his supporters.
All this, despite his dubious background and questionable personal activities, Sharpton has also visited the White House 81 times and continues to create conflict where ever he appears, saying, “Every time there’s a Sean Bell or a Ferguson or a Trayvon Martin, we go through my taxes. It’s the same agreement y’all.”
Sharpton’s current tax troubles began in 2008 when the IRS filed personal liens against him totaling nearly $1 million. At that time, he also owed nearly $365,558 to the New York City for unpaid personal income tax and his for-profit company, Rev. Al Communications, which owed the state of New York $175,962 in delinquent taxes.
To help clear the ever-increasing tax bill, Sharpton held a ‘Party for a Cause,’ on his 60th birthday, where $1,500 got supporters in as “medallion” committee members, $2,500 bought “tracksuit” status, and $25,000 “preacher status.” The event raised an estimated $1 million in donations.