January 12, 2004 Monday
HEADLINE: Interview With Democratic Presidential Candidate Al Sharpton
GUESTS: Al Sharpton
BYLINE: Greta Van Susteren
VAN SUSTEREN: Reverend Al Sharpton joins us here in Washington.
Nice to see you, Reverend.
REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nice to see you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You hammered Governor Dean about not having minorities in his Cabinet. Fair-fair assessment?
SHARPTON: Oh, well, what I did was-Governor Dean has said he wants to convene a discussion of race in this country. He says that he's the one that has brought that issue forward. If you step forward and take that role, then-someone has a right then to say, well, let's examine what you've done.
You know, we've done 30 joint appearances. In most of them, he talks about what he did in Vermont. It was health-care. It was environment. So I wanted to know what did you do about race in Vermont. Had he not...
VAN SUSTEREN: Isn't...
SHARPTON: ... made himself that, I would never have asked the question.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is race, though-I mean-I mean if you take a look at the demographics of the country, to be fair to Governor Dean...
In fact, I've got e-mails from people who live in Vermont and say, look, I've lived here 18, 20 years, we don't have a huge minority population.
If you want to go after him, go after him for what they say is his poor history of keeping business there, for instance.
SHARPTON: No. Well, first of all, he said he wanted to talk race to America. If you don't have the experience because you come from a state with a 1-1/2-percent black population, that is more than understandable. But then don't say you're going to lecture people that have had to deal with diversity and the mixtures and tensions and good side of races coming together.
He designated himself into a role...
VAN SUSTEREN: So he walked into this one?
SHARPTON: He volunteered himself. And then, when someone said, well, let's see your qualifications, he says don't ask me that.
If I came on your show, Greta, and said I want to be the one to talk about space in this country, would it be picking on me to say, well, give me your background in space?
He stood there over and over again, including last night, and said I'm the one that wants to deal with race, and I talk race to white America. Well, then I said, well, good, as governor, let's deal with the diversity of your administration.
I can understand him saying, well, we didn't have that many blacks in the state. Then fine. You should let those that have had to deal...
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. OK. Let's switch...
SHARPTON: ... with racial mixtures assume that role.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. OK. Fair enough.
All right. Let's go on to the next topic. You have been quoted, correct me if I'm wrong, that President Bill Clinton killed the Democratic Party. Is that a...
SHARPTON: No, I did not say that.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK.
SHARPTON: I said that-when they said to me the party would die if it went into the progressive politics that you have espoused, I said, first of all, the party died when we could not capture the Congress in '94, '96, '98, 2000, 2002.
They said, well, we won with Clinton. I said President Clinton was able to be elected, but he was not able to bring the Congress with him. And don't accuse me of bringing in a politics that would kill the party. Bring in the politics that might resurrect the party. The party's already been dead.
I think what Clinton did, by and large, was good. I disagreed with him on some areas, but I don't think Clinton killed the party. I think the party was killed by those that went too centrist and got too far away from the working class, laborer, and minority base that has always provided the foot troops for the party.
In a strange way, Clinton was able to appeal to that base. At the same time, the DLC was alienating Bill, and I don't think Clinton was the fault of the party's death, but I clearly can't for the life of me think people are making sense when they say I'm going to kill a party that has no control of the Congress, the Senate, the White House, or the Supreme Court.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Let's talk personal. How is-is this race fun for you? I mean are you enjoying this?
SHARPTON: I mean I believe in what I'm doing. I like-I've always had a lot of energy. I like meeting people and dealing with people. I'm in Washington now because there's a statehood primary tomorrow, and it's something I fought for for 15 years. So I enjoy trying to bring some light into situations that may not be exposed.
VAN SUSTEREN: Insane schedule, isn't it?
SHARPTON: Very insane. I mean I had three hours of sleep last night. I was in Washington, did two churches, flew to the debate in Iowa, got back at 3:00 in the morning, and I was at Mitchell (ph) at 6:00 this morning shaking hands to get people out for the primary in D.C. tomorrow.
VAN SUSTEREN: And so where do you go from here after you leave D.C.?
SHARPTON: I will be here through the primary tomorrow. Then I will go home for about a half a day to head to California for the state convention, come back through New Hampshire, South Carolina, and then back home for the end of King Day.
VAN SUSTEREN: And the people are-there's some criticism of you with the finances. What's going on with that?
SHARPTON: Well, I-you know, someone wrote an article saying that we should not have hotels that are in-nice hotels, which is insane. We have fund raisers in hotels, and sometimes, if you rent a suite to have a fund raiser, you stay there. Why went a suite for a fundraiser and stay somewhere else?
But even if you stayed there, I'm not running a ghetto campaign that I can't stay downtown. Can you imagine me telling Joe Lieberman or John Kerry don't use private planes? I mean-so what am I supposed to do, go stay at the hood in the Hilton?
I mean this is ridiculous, and I think that it shows a biased view that people-some people have in terms of our campaign. We've made matching funds. We've reached a threshold. We're moving forward. We're raising more money. And I don't intend to run for president in any less form or fashion than anyone else.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right.
SHARPTON: And I think that that is an issue that is trivial at best. I mean to suggest I'm running for president just to stay at a nice hotel-I have a nice home when I want to go home.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Reverend. Always nice to see you. And probably see you out in Iowa on Friday...
SHARPTON: Thank you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: ... if you're there. I'm going out...
SHARPTON: First primary in Washington, D.C.
VAN SUSTEREN: That-what? All right. Good enough. All right. Thank you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Up next, does Martha Stewart have anything to net by taking her story to the Web? Is this damage control or damaging to her defense?
And later, 10 weeks after losing her left arm in a shark attack, Bethany Hamilton returns to the waves. We'll show you what happened.
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