LOS ANGELES – A group of barbers and beauticians has sued the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, claiming the activists' remarks about the movie Barbershop drove away customers.
The suit was filed Monday by the National Association of Cosmetologists. It accuses Jackson and Sharpton of intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, and negligence stemming from their demand for apologies from MGM, which produced the comedy.
The activists had called for scenes deriding Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks to be removed from the film starring Ice Cube and Cedric the Entertainer. MGM refused to cut the scenes.
The association, which claims to represent 50,000 barbers and beauticians, said Jackson and Sharpton misrepresented themselves as spokesmen for the group.
James Stern, chief executive of the group, said Sharpton's threat to boycott the film and other remarks created a negative public sentiment about the profession, resulting in a loss of business.
"By threatening to boycott MGM studios, they put a black eye to our subject matter of barbers and cosmetologists in the state of California," Stern said.
Sharpton said he had not received a copy of the lawsuit but called the allegations ridiculous.
"Every movie critic would get sued," he said. "We haven't addressed their business. I addressed the film."
Tracy Rice, a spokeswoman for Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH coalition, said the organization hadn't seen the lawsuit. She called it a nuisance suit and predicted it would be thrown out of court.
"The First Amendment protects artistic expression just as it protects Rev. Jackson's right to express his opinion," she said.
In the scene in question, a barber jokes about King's alleged promiscuity. He also says Parks wasn't the first person to refuse to give up her bus seat but was given credit because she was connected to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Barbershop has grossed $71.2 million at the box office in seven weeks of release.