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Public Statements

CNN Crossfire Transcript

Location: New York, NY

March 16, 2004 Tuesday

HEADLINE: Interview With Al Sharpton

GUESTS: Al Sharpton

BYLINE: Wolf Blitzer, Tucker Carlson, Paul Begala

Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton discusses why he is endorsing John Kerry, but not ending his own campaign.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

After what he called a cordial meeting with Senator John Kerry on Monday, Reverend Al Sharpton told reporters that the senator from Massachusetts has-quote-"clearly"-unquote-won the nomination. But Reverend Sharpton also declared-quote-"We are not ending the campaign"-unquote.

To tell us what's ahead, Reverend Al Sharpton himself steps into the CROSSFIRE live from New York.

Reverend, good to see you again.

AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Good to be here.


CARLSON: Reverend Sharpton, thanks for coming on.

I confess, I'm a little bit confused. You are endorsing John Kerry, but continuing to run. Isn't that like conceding the game, but continuing to go to bat? What does that mean and why are you doing it?

SHARPTON: Well, Senator Kerry has won the nomination. You need 2,100 delegates to win. He has done that.

And I think that what we need now to do is go forward on what will the platform and what will the party stand for. And that is why I'm saying we will continue to try and not only pick up delegates, but meet with other candidates to see if we can unite delegates around an urban agenda that deals with critical issues.

But I think that for me to continue to campaign for a nomination that has already been decided would be, first, wrong to the-to my constituents, and to voters. But, secondly, I think it would only feed into George Bush using anything that I would say to try to attack Kerry, when they're already unfairly attacking Kerry.

CARLSON: Well, wait a second. Wait a second.

SHARPTON: We have a good candidate. He can win.

I'll tell you the good


CARLSON: I'm a little bit surprised, Reverend Sharpton. As one of your oldest supporters, I'm a little bit surprised.

Here, you're a man who speaks truth to power, who fears no man, who will say what's true regardless. And yet you're saying it's bad-quote-"bad" for the country to attack John Kerry.


SHARPTON: No, I think it's bad to attack at a time that George Bush could distort those attacks.

Let me tell you the quality difference between the nominee John Kerry in 2004 and the nominee George Bush in 2000. In 2004, you incorrectly asked John Kerry to name the foreign leaders that would support him because he never said that in the beginning. In 2000, we couldn't get George Bush to name a foreign leader. He couldn't remember their names, period.



Well, Reverend, the next big step, I think, comes at the convention. It's the last week of July. So we've got a little bit of time. But the question going around is, will you speak at the convention? Let me go on record saying I think you ought to if you say the sorts of things you said in the debates.

Let me play just one of the pieces of-really, one of the gems that you came off with in one of these debates and then ask you about if you will repeat it at the convention.

Here's you at one of the debates.


SHARPTON: Clearly, he lied. Now, if he is an unconscious liar and doesn't realize when he's lying, then we're really in trouble.


SHARPTON: So, I hope he knew he was lying, because, if he didn't and just went in some kind of crazy psychological breakdown, then we're really in trouble.

Clearly-you know, I'm a minister. Why do people lie? Because they're liars. He lied in Florida. He's lied several times. I believe he lied in Iraq.



Reverend, are you going to repeat that sort of fire-and-brimstone attack on George W. Bush at the convention?

SHARPTON: Well, I will be repeating that all over the country.

Whether I speak at the convention, I'm not preoccupied with that. We didn't discuss that. I'm really trying to push public schools and health care and other issues that really hurt people.

But I think really think, since you played that clip, that Tucker ought to use his influence to make sure that I can make that speech at the Republican Convention. They need to really hear what I have to say.



BEGALA: I don't think they have the same commitment to free speech in


CARLSON: Reverend Sharpton, as much as I would like to celebrate your coming aboard the Kerry campaign, there's already trouble in paradise.

I refer you to two quotes in today's papers. Here they are-rather, yesterday's-first, from "The New York Post." This is a New York state Democrat-quote-"The Kerry camp thinks that, on balance, they might be better off without Sharpton on their side," to which your side responded this way -- -- quote-If the Kerry campaign messes with Reverend Sharpton, they do so at the their own peril"


SHARPTON: Well, first of all...

CARLSON: Here you have the Kerry campaign beating up you, your side threatening them? It's falling apart already, Rev. Come on.

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, you're quoting a very right-wing paper who used two unnamed sources from both campaigns. You just used the clips.

That is certainly not the spirit of the meeting that Kerry and I had. And I think we're mature enough not to let unnamed sources from both campaigns quoted by a paper that opposes the Democratic Party get us into quarrel. Now, you're trying agitate a fight that's not there. I don't know anyone on either side that said that.

We are about trying to return this country to safety, to where public schools can work, where we have health care. We're not about just playing politics with this. And I think, for unnamed sources to try and bait us into a quarrel, I think we're way beyond that.

BEGALA: Reverend, let me take you to the last contested primaries that you had against Senator Kerry, Texas and Florida.

Now, these are big states. They're expensive states, probably more expensive than a grassroots campaign like yours could wage. But let me show you how John Kerry performed among African-American voters in Florida and in Texas, 81 percent in Florida, against 9 for you, 76 percent in Texas, against 11 for you. That is an impressive performance by John Kerry in a region where he's not as well-known, isn't it?

SHARPTON: Well, not only that.

What was impressive to me is, I haven't been to Texas or Florida in six months. I was surprised I got the votes I got.


SHARPTON: I got 31,000 votes in Texas. And I didn't even go and not only have a grassroots campaign. I never even went to Texas to campaign.

And that's why I think all of us need to be on board for Kerry to win. Whether it's 11 percent here or 40 percent there of a black vote, we need all of those voters in. But the only way to bring them in is around an agenda that is going to excite people.

And I think that we're beyond now who got what. Now we're saying that all of us need to bring whatever our piece is, big, small, or medium size,. so we can return this country to true democracy by the rejection of George Bush at the polls in November.


CARLSON: Well, Reverend Sharpton, in fact, in fact, John Kerry has gone even farther. He wants not simply to win black votes. He wants, as he explained to the Associated Press a couple weeks ago, to become black himself, a sort of reverse Michael Jackson.


CARLSON: He said: I want to be the second black president.


CARLSON: To which your friend Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV of Harlem said this-I'm quoting now-"It is insensitive and factually inaccurate, obviously. The fact is, John Kerry wouldn't know the first thing about being black in this nation."

My question to you, Reverend Sharpton, is, which is it? Do you think it's insensitive of John Kerry to claim that he's becoming black, A, or, B, do you think he can become black, and, if so, how? How does he do it?


SHARPTON: Well, again, I'm more concerned with an agenda that is going to deal with the racial disparities.

Look at "U.S. News & World Report" this week of the difference between reading grads of blacks and math grades of blacks in fourth grade and whites. I think a flippant statement by him that emanates out of Toni Morrison saying Bill Clinton was the first black candidate, I think that, you know, that, you can go back and forth, but that's really not dealing with the serious nature of race in this country.

The problem is that, under this administration, that blacks, whites, Latinos, all of us has been given the shaft. And I think that, in many ways, we have a lot more serious things to argue about. He was on a black station. He said something in jest. I think that some of us may say that that's not the kind of thing you want to do. But in the whole scheme of things, I think we've got to deal with the policies that are really hurting us as Americans.

CARLSON: It was just like what Trent Lott did, then. It was just a joke, not a


SHARPTON: No, Trent Lott wasn't joking.

CARLSON: Oh, oh, OK. Oh, OK.

SHARPTON: No, there's a difference-there's a difference between...


CARLSON: I understand now. Right.


The difference-the difference, Tucker, since you brought it up, is Trent Lott...

CARLSON: Is, one a Democrat, one is a Republican.


SHARPTON: No, Trent Lott talked about how those days were great and how we needed a president that was a segregationist running on a segregationist ticket. You can't even remotely say that that's what John Kerry said here.

He was not endorsing a racist policy at all. Trent Lott was saying he wished that Strom Thurmond, who was running as a Dixiecrat in '48, would win. And I think that that is the kind of mentality that we've got to get out of American politics.


BEGALA: Well, in fact, Reverend, let me ask you to settle a dispute that Tucker and I have had for a long time. And he has long argued that you've got contempt for white liberals.

And so let me just ask you directly. Who's done more good for America, white liberals like, say, Ted Kennedy or white conservatives like Jesse Helms?

SHARPTON: No, I think that I have contempt for phony white liberals that act liberal and are not really liberal. I don't think Ted Kennedy is a phony.

I think that if-there are some phony liberals I have contempt for, like I have contempt for phony conservatives. I respect real conservatives. I may not agree with them. I respect a feel conservative like Tucker. I feel sorry for him, but I like him.



SHARPTON: But I hold contempt for phonies.

CARLSON: Well, Reverend Sharpton, let's get right to the point. What are you going to ask of John Kerry? What policy positions would you like to see him assume? In what ways do you want him to take up your mantle? What are you going to force him to address, now that you've endorsed him?

SHARPTON: Again, there was three real tricky things in there, take up my mantle, what am I asking him for, so then the right wing can go and act like he's picking up a mantle of a person.

This is not about that. This is about, we want addressed things like statehood in Washington, D.C. We want things like how are we going to deal with the racial disparity in health care and in education, and not just Kerry, but the party as a whole? That's what a platform committee is about. That's what a convention is about.

This is not about him making a concession or a deal with Al Sharpton. This is about being able to go out to the 50 states in November and say, this is what it represents for all Americans and those of us that have been excluded, this is the agenda to stop that exclusion.

Let me tell you something. You were talking earlier in the program-I was listening-about homeland security. Americans need to know that I talked to Congressman Obey, who had proposed from the Appropriations Committee that in the tax cut they just scale back $5,000 for only those citizens that made over $1 million. This would have brought $1 billion, put it in homeland security, where they would have added that $1 billion to check out containers, to rebuild the infrastructure of ports, to secure Americans.

Do you know the Republicans would not allow them to charge $5,000 or to rescind $5,000 in tax cuts to millionaires, yet they're talking about they're committed against terrorism, national security? Americans need to know they don't want to pay for it.


BEGALA: Well, Reverend Sharpton, hang on. Keep your seat. We're going to take a break.

And when we come back, in our "Rapid Fire" segment, I'm going to ask Al Sharpton if he's interested in joining John Kerry on the ticket.

And then, right after the break, Wolf Blitzer will have the latest for us on the hunt for a suspect in the Ohio highway shootings.

Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: Join Carville, Begala, Carlson and Novak in the CROSSFIRE. For free tickets to the live Washington audience, call 202-994-8CNN or e-mail us at . Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York.

Coming up at the top of the hour, hot rhetoric and a heated challenge. President Bush throws down the gauntlet to John Kerry over Kerry's claim that other leaders want the president out of office. We'll hear from both sides and I'll speak with a prominent Kerry adviser, former top diplomat Richard Holbrooke.

A man police say is dangerous to himself and others is now a suspect in the Ohio highway shootings and a manhunt is under way. We'll go live to Columbus.

Those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS"-now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

It's time for "Rapid Fire." And, appropriately, we have the fastest figure in all American politics. That's the Reverend Al Sharpton. He joins us from New York.

BEGALA: Reverend Sharpton, do you want John Kerry to consider you to be his running mate on the ticket?



CARLSON: Reverend Sharpton, you said during the debates that you would like to-quote-"party" with Teresa Heinz Kerry. Now that you have endorsed her husband, will you get to?

SHARPTON: Yes, at the inaugural ball, as she is the first lady.

BEGALA: Excellent. I can't wait for that.


BEGALA: Reverend, moving forward, lots of rumors about you joining Tucker's and my profession in cable television. Have you had any negotiations or talks with, say, Roger Ailes or Fox News, our competitors?

SHARPTON: No, I have not had any negotiation with Roger Ailes or Fox News. I think someone in a Fox News division sent us an idea about a reality script, but I have not talked to Fox News. I am talking, though, about doing a cable show and a network radio show.

So, Tucker, watch out.

BEGALA: Excellent.


CARLSON: Well, I wouldn't want you competing, Reverend Sharpton.

As you know, the man you endorsed today doesn't think gay people have the right to get married. He want to deny that, considered a basic right by gay rights groups. Will you convince him that his position is wrong and immoral?

SHARPTON: No, I think the guy you endorsed is trying to have an amendment.

He doesn't have an amendment for many things like ERA. We don't have an amendment for the right to vote. But I think it's a weapon of mass distraction, that President Bush is trying to have us argue about who can get married, rather than who can live in this country and make their own decisions and have a job.

I said in the debate, the issue is not who you go to bed with at night. The issue is whether the two of you have a job when you wake up in the morning.


BEGALA: Reverend Al Sharpton...


BEGALA: Terrific job. Thank you very much for joining us. Always good to see you. And we hope you will come back when you're in D.C.

Thank you, Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

BEGALA: Well, she said buffalo have wings and that chicken of the sea is poultry. Find out what Jessica Simpson said about someone in Washington next.


Content and programming Copyright 2004 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by FDCH e-Media, Inc.

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