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The Great Debate! Bernard McGuirk vs. Rev. Al Sharpton

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 11, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

ANNOUNCER: Live from the FOX News headquarters in New York City, a special edition of "Hannity & Colmes." Six rounds between the Reverend Al Sharpton and Don Imus' radio producer, Bernard McGuirk, side-by-side in our New York studio, a “Hannity & Colmes” exclusive!

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And welcome to this special edition of "Hannity & Colmes." I'm Sean Hannity.

From the controversy surrounding Don Imus to the news just this week about radio hosts Opie and Anthony and their controversial comments, the public's attention has become focused on what is acceptable and what is not. And that is where our debate takes us tonight.

Now, first, we'd like to introduce the man who fought harder than anyone else for the dismissal of Don Imus, from the National Action Network, we welcome the Reverend Al Sharpton.

And on the other side, Don Imus' radio producer and the man whose exchange with Imus has turned the media world upside down, we welcome producer of the Don Imus show, Bernard McGuirk is here with us tonight.

Thanks for being here.

BERNARD MCGUIRK, FORMER "DON IMUS" RADIO PRODUCER: How are you? Let's get ready to box on FOX, I guess, huh?

HANNITY: First of all, thank you both for being here...

MCGUIRK: Not at all.

HANNITY: ... because these are important issues we're dealing with here. We're dealing with issues of free speech. We're dealing with issues of what's acceptable in the public airwaves. There are so many different controversies emerging here.

Let me start, Reverend Al, with you. He's fired. You wanted him fired. You wanted Don Imus fired. He's out of a job right now. He's apologized to the women's Rutgers basketball team. Imus apologized repeatedly. Are you still glad that that happened?

THE REVEREND AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: It's not about glad. I think the first statements I said is, "Nobody wants to see anyone hung." We don't want to see people continually harmed due to their race or their gender.

This was never about them. — I said that to Imus. This was about the women and the people of African descent that were constantly being castigated. And Mr. Imus in the past had apologized to -and about- and said he wasn't going to do it again. So we went to advertisers and say we don't want to engage in supporting advertisers that support that.

HANNITY: When this whole thing happened, Reverend, he went on your radio show — and I watched his apology, because he gave multiple apologies. And, again, I said to you, because he's taken shots at me, which we'll get to. But he seemed sincere, and he reached out to you, and he said, "Reverend, I want to make good on this," even after he was fired.

First of all, the women's Rutgers basketball team never asked for his firing. They accepted his apology. He met with them even after he lost two jobs. Why wouldn't you have accepted the apology and work with him in that...

SHARPTON: If you listen to the statements that we made, Sean, when he came on my radio show, I just said to him, "Forgiveness is not the point. Nobody does not forgive people. We've all been forgiven." The question is the penalty, and the question is whether advertisers that make money and those communities that have consistently been offended can continue to have people apologize, say, "I'm not going to do it again," and do it again.

He sat with Clarence Page and made the same apology and same commitment. It has nothing to do with forgiveness. When I was asked, after he was first suspended for two weeks, should the Rutgers team meet [with him], in my opinion? Yes. They should meet. Should they forgive? Yes. I said I forgave a guy that tried to kill me. You and I went through this dialogue.

HANNITY: I did, and we went through this.

SHARPTON: So, I mean, the question is not forgiveness.

HANNITY: One of the things...

SHARPTON: The minister that convened the meeting, and that was the moderator, Reverend Soares, said he should be fired.

HANNITY: Let me ask this. You know, I guess everything is about context, texture.

You know, Bernie, I watched the show a lot over the years. I've listened to Imus. I've listened to you over the years. You said when you were on this program, no sacred cows. As a matter of fact, the harshest words were often what you guys said about each other.

MCGUIRK: Absolutely. Imus, you know, himself took the brunt of — he was savaged. He was a "cradle-robbing cadaver," you know, "whose proctologist mistakenly operated on his face."

HANNITY: Called his wife a ho.

MCGUIRK: He called his wife the green ho, a cranky ho. I was a "bald-headed stooge," "light bulb head." His brother was fornicating with barnyard animals. People, all through the spectrum, everybody was savaged, so it was in that context that these comments were made.

And they were over the line. The angle was legitimate. The apology was appropriate. But it took on a life of its own after the Reverend Sharpton got involved.

And, Reverend, that's I think where — I sense that there's a backlash out there, and I sense that — I don't know if people — if you're aware of people's perception of you. People view you as a sort of — this is how they view you, with all due respect, as a crude, humorless opportunist, a race-baiter who's jealous of, say, Barack Obama and Harold Ford, Jr.'s, success, who's been rendered irrelevant, you and Jesse Jackson, by people like that, and that this was an opportunity for you to get your face back, to make yourself relevant again.

And that's where the anger stems from. You have a history yourself of uttering racial, anti-Semitic, homophobic epithets. And for you to be leading a charge like this, it strikes people as hypocritical. It's like O.J. advocating on behalf of battered spouses.

SHARPTON: If we're going to have a debate, if we're going to have a debate of name-calling...

MCGUIRK: I'm not, I'm not...

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Let's give the reverend a chance to respond. One at a time.

SHARPTON: ... debate of name-calling and all that, first of all, if you want to have a substantive discussion, as you announced, because with the new controversy this week, and because of the Imus thing, we can have it. I'm not going to sit here and defend against what he says people's perception — then I'm going to say that is not — that doesn't solve anything.

I can sit here and say people's perception of him. That's not important. I can list things he's said all over the years. That's not important. If you want to have a substantive discussion, let's have it. If you want to sit up and call me names, knock yourself out.

COLMES: All right, Reverend, let me ask you this. It just was mentioned about the commercial advertisers pulling out, and that was one of the reasons. Did you and your group go to CBS and make any kind of threat and say, "If you don't do X, we are going to go to your sponsors"? Was there any pressure brought to bear by you, in terms of the advertisers on Imus' show?

SHARPTON: First of all, the first group that came out was the National Association of Black Journalists, who were fellow journalists, that said he should be fired, he's gone over the line, and he promised...

COLMES: But I'm talking about you, because you're at the center of controversy. We want to know what you did.

SHARPTON: That's not true. That is not true. The National Association of Black Journalists is what started the call —who are people in the media business, do this every day. — And we came in, National Action Network, and then other civil rights groups later. Everyone collectively met with CBS and NBC after making a public statement to the advertisers.

I think, when we first met with NBC, they had already suspended Mr. Imus...

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: But did you make any...

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: ... but it was only a suspension, it wasn't a firing. Did you make any threats to CBS or NBC, in terms of, "We're going to gather, we're going to get together, and we're going to boycott"?

SHARPTON: What we said was that we wanted him fired to the advertisers. And we met with both stations, as I met with Imus, and Imus asked for the meeting, to state our position, period.

COLMES: Bernard?

MCGUIRK: Who anointed Al Sharpton the P.C. police chief? Is what people want to know. There's a lot of anger...

(CROSSTALK)

MCGUIRK: No, it's not a personal thing.

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: One at a time. Go ahead, Bernard. Go ahead.

MCGUIRK: You make the charge. By what authority do you go around, with the bullhorn and bus loads of angry people, threatening corporations to achieve a goal that, by all accounts, is a self-serving one and doesn't really, you know, help the victims that you purport to help? It's all about Al Sharpton. That's what the anger is about. That's why...

SHARPTON: First of all, first of all, only you are going to sit up here and say there's anger. I don't know, and it doesn't really matter to this discussion whether people are angry or not. There are people angry on the other side. That's not the discussion.

MCGUIRK: No, no, they are angry.

SHARPTON: Well, fine, and there are people that were angry about what was said. And I think that, again, I'm not going to get into that, and you can call me names all night, Mr. McGuirk.

MCGUIRK: I'm not calling you names. With all due respect, I'm saying that...

SHARPTON: Well, with all due respect, that's not what I'm going — whatever name you want to call me, fine. I'll tell you what. You all are the judge, I'll stipulate to the court, any name he can name me, I stipulate. Now, let's get — may I finish?

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: Go ahead, Reverend.

SHARPTON: So we stipulate any name you want to call me. The uglier the better is no problem.

The point becomes that consumers have the right to say to their advertisers, "Are your standards going to be where people are attacked based on their gender and race?" Now, that's a little different than attacking you or attacking himself.

HANNITY: We'll raise the question when we come back. There's a lot of issues. Is it selectively applied? We'll raise that question. And I think what Bernard is raising here is, you've had a past of controversy. And, in other words, should that be relevant, in this discussion, considering he's controversial, so are you? You've said outrageous things.

SHARPTON: Again, you know, we went through this with our debate. You want to eat up time and say, "I said this," and I say, "I didn't," then you're not trying to have a debate, Sean.

HANNITY: No, no...

SHARPTON: You want to go through all of that again. I could go through a list of what they said. Is it relevant?

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: We're going to take a break. We'll come back from this, round two of Sharpton-McGuirk, coming up in just a few short minutes. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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