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CNN American Morning Transcript

Location: Unknown

October 20, 2003 Monday

HEADLINE: Interview With Al Sharpton

GUESTS: Al Sharpton

BYLINE: Bill Hemmer

He is one of nine Democrats running for the White House and in this high stakes political battle Al Sharpton is pulling no punches.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: He is one of nine Democrats running for the White House. And in this high stakes political battle Al Sharpton is pulling no punches. However, according to the most recent "USA"/CNN "Today"/Gallup (sic) poll, Sharpton is the choice of just six percent of registered Democrats. What's a political underdog to do to catch the leaders in the Democratic pack? We'll ask him now. Reverend Sharpton is here with us on AMERICAN MORNING. Nice to see you.


HEMMER: Look at those numbers. You running to win or are you running to push an issue that others are not?

SHARPTON: I'm running to do both. I think when you look at the fact according that to your polls I'm the same place that Mr. Edwards, who raised about $15 million or $17 million, is, that I'm doing this on about a little more than a quarter of a million, I think everyone ought to be afraid as we now pick up steam.

And you're a front-runner is only at 18 percent.

HEMMER: Not my front-runner.

SHARPTON: Well CNN's front-runner. I think that it shows that a lot of people haven't decided. And a lot of people in my campaign, we're finding are not even registered or involved.

You are, for the most part, polling the existing field. We're registering new voters. I just left the University of Virginia. Hundreds of students come up, many unregistered. So I think that this is very early. I think not only can we win it, we, at the same time, can raise the issues and messages that I feel have been ignored and are the key to the party winning.

HEMMER: Let's talk about some of those issues within the Democratic Party. You've been quite critical. You think they have essentially turned their backs on black Americans. Why do you believe that?

SHARPTON: I think not only on black Americans, and Latino Americans, but on a lot of the basic tenets of the party. I think that, for example, we ought to unequivocally be against this president in his engagement in Iraq. We ought to unequivocally oppose the tax cuts. We ought to unequivocally take this president on in terms of the CIA leaks.

I think that we've had the party for the last decade of war going too far to the politics of big business and pro-death penalty. And I think that we need to clarify the party. That's why you have primaries, so that you first have a convention and then have a united party go at the, in this case, the incumbent.

I think that we've had too many imitation Republicans. And I think that part of what we must do is purify the party.


HEMMER: You're talking about reforming the Democratic Party. You've made those comments in the past. And if it doesn't happen you would essentially step outside the party. Where would you go?

SHARPTON: Well, I didn't say that I would step out of this race. I support the nominee. I intend to be the nominee.

But I think if there is no real movement, they will force people to go other places. There are people that are looking at independent parties. There are people that are looking at alternatives. I hope it won't come to that. I hope in 2004 we will be able to move the party to where the party not reforms but returns to representing working-class people, and people that are concerned with human rights abroad, and civil liberties at home.

HEMMER: You know what Republicans say? They say the Democratic Party hasn't done anything for black America. What has the party done for African-Americans?

SHARPTON: Well, for the Republicans to say is that is part of arrogance because I think that there has been a bad relationship with the Democrats. There has been none with the Republicans. So they should not find any joy in that.

I think that in many ways, we have seen a party that has run away from some of the fundamental issues, whether they're economic issues in terms of how we share the economic pie, whether we deal with the fact that today—Bob Herbert wrote in "The New York Times" this morning how you have over 40 percent of black males between 20 and 24 in Chicago unemployed and out of school. We've got to deal with that in a specific way.

HEMMER: Why do you think, then—you've thrown out some numbers, I'll throw out one—why do 90 percent of African-Americans still vote Democrat if that's the case, what you're saying today?

SHARPTON: I think 90 percent vote Democrat because compared to the Republicans there's no comparison. But I think there's been a dwindling number in terms of turnout. And I think that what we must do to get that turnout is address those issues.

You must turn people on to turn them out. And I think that people will not continue to be faithful to a party that is not faithful to it. I think we can make it faithful, but I think we must challenge it in order for it to be effective.

HEMMER: One more issue, and I don't have much time for this, though there's a story today that says Joseph Lieberman, Wesley Clark, will skip the caucuses in Iowa come January and focus instead on like South Carolina, a few other states in the South. What's your reaction to that?

SHARPTON: I think it means it's going to shift a lot of how the political landscape is. It's surprising. Al Sharpton is not pulling out of Iowa, Joe Lieberman, who ran for vice president is, General Clark. Only in America can we see this kind of stuff happen...

HEMMER: Only in America.

SHARPTON: ... even before we get to Christmas.

HEMMER: A couple of people before the show wanted me to ask you this question, so I'll do it for their benefit. The one-liners you pull on these debates, how many of those are canned before you walk out on stage?

SHARPTON: Very few. But we only have two minutes. You have to use one liners.

HEMMER: All right, I got it. Good to see up, Reverend Al Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Thank you. Have a good day, Bill.

Content and programming Copyright 2003 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by FDCH e-Media, Inc.

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