NEW YORK – He says he's not a drug dealer and did not succumb to temptation. Now he's going to make HBO pay for suggesting otherwise.
Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network and potential presidential candidate in 2004, filed suit Wednesday against the cable channel and its parent company AOL-Time Warner as well as some of the individuals involved in Tuesday's broadcast of Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel after it aired a 19-year-old tape of Sharpton discussing a drug deal with an undercover agent posing as a South American drug lord.
Sharpton is seeking $1 billion, half in compensatory damages and half as punitive damages, for what he says was a false and defamatory report that painted him as a potential drug dealer.
The HBO report featured former Mafia captain Michael Franzese saying that the FBI was on the right track when it targeted Sharpton in a sting back in 1983 to try and root out corruption in boxing.
Real Sports got a hold of a hidden camera video that shows undercover agent Victor Quintana posing as a drug dealer trying to convince Sharpton to play a middleman in a big cocaine buy.
Sharpton asks the undercover agent, "What kind of time limit are we dealing with?"
"Coke?" the agent asks.
"Yeah." Sharpton says.
The phony drug dealer says, "Could be about the same time we have 4 million coming to us."
Sharpton: "End of April?"
"End of April. Six weeks from now. Is that a good time you think?" the agent asks.
"Probably," Sharpton replies.
Later on, the undercover agent offers Sharpton a finder's fee for help with the drug deal and says to Sharpton, "I can get pure coke for about $35,000 a kilo ... Every kilogram we bring in, $3,500 to you. How does that sound?"
The deal never went down, and Sharpton has said he was just playing along because he was scared of the would-be kingpin.
"And I'm in his office. I don't know whether this man is armed. I don't know what's going on. So I kind of say, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah,' to get out of there," he told Fox News.
Sharpton said that a second tape exists that would prove that he never intended to deal drugs.
"If they would release all of the tapes, which is really why I wanted to go into court to fight how — and show how this is done to many Americans, they will show that in a subsequent tape, we clearly said, 'Look, don't come to us with drugs. Don't deal with us with drugs,'" he said.
The civil rights activist said that the newsmagazine program has only fueled his interest in running for president because he wants to put a stop to FBI actions like that depicted in the tape.
"It's a situation that unfortunately shows that there are people in law enforcement that will try to entrap a lot of people," he said.
And if he wins the lawsuit against HBO and AOL Time Warner, he can afford a big campaign.
Fox News' Rick Leventhal and the Associated Press contributed to this report.