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O'Reilly and Rev. Al Sharpton Debate Racism in Tea Party

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 29, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight: reaction [to racism charges in the Tea Party movement]. We tried to get Congressman John Lewis, Emanuel Cleaver and Jesse Jackson Jr. to discuss the race Tea Party issue. They all declined. Those men were at the Capitol protest last week.

With us now is a man who is watching the situation closely, the Rev. Al Sharpton. All right. I just bloviated for three minutes. What say you?

Click here to watch the debate!

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I say that everybody has to be very careful how they analyze what we are watching. All of us that are in public have to be very careful of our words. I have gone through that in the past where you say things, people accuse you of saying something you didn't. But then you have blatant examples when people are using racial language, where people spit on a member of Congress. That's not a gray area.

O'REILLY: Now, you're talking about the guy with the hands out? Because we have this video of the hands like this spitting on Emanuel Cleaver. Are you sure he did that? Are you sure he spitted or it was just spittle?

SHARPTON: However it was done.

O'REILLY: Right.

SHARPTON: We do not…

O'REILLY: But there is a difference between intentional and non- intentional.

SHARPTON: But there also is a difference between someone getting close enough that he would have intention to spit on a U.S. congressman.

O'REILLY: There is no doubt, he is close and he is giving him what — for…

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: And there's no close that disregarding member of Congress. And I think that there is clearly a line of decency that we have to draw.

O'REILLY: OK.

SHARPTON: I wish that the chairman of the Republican Party had agreed to a joint statement with the chairman of the Democratic Party. But the only part that I would agree on what you said tonight, I think that every side has to be careful. I remember I did a TV show and a guy asked me right on this station well, some people say this is socialism with health care. I say if you say, you're saying American people voted for socialism. They come on with headlines that I called it socialism. I responded.

O'REILLY: OK. I got it. I used that sound bite, too.

SHARPTON: If you say that, that's what you say.

O'REILLY: That's what you voted for.

SHARPTON: Yes. I didn't say that I called it socialism.

O'REILLY: No. That's a legitimate point. But you yourself were caught up, years, years back in a situation where somebody got killed.

SHARPTON: Right.

O'REILLY: In Harlem, New York. There was a clothing store there and you were leading a protest and things got heated.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: Absolutely wrong. That's what I'm talking about. I led a protest in September. In November that year, three months later, two and a half months later, a guy killed himself and others and they go back to that speech.

O'REILLY: And that happened to me.

SHARPTON: Which is totally different than somebody standing up in front of a protest.

O'REILLY: Yes, I know but the point I'm making is that happen to you and it happen to me. George Tiller, the abortion doctor, they blamed me for his assassination, and while you had a distance of a couple of months, all I did was report the truth. And we both got blamed unfairly, OK? For tragedies that happen. So, what I'm saying to you is the media ran wild with this Tea Party thing last week, blaming the Tea Party. You saw what Pitts says. Pitts says basically that the Tea Party people are racist. That's unfair.

SHARPTON: Yes. But there is a difference in what Pitts is saying and in those that are talking about violence. I think what Pitts is saying and some of The New York Times writers are saying is that there is a racial component where people talk about take back our country. Who is our? You can't deny…

O'REILLY: Well, our is them.

SHARPTON: Bill, you cannot deny there are some racial components in this.

O'REILLY: Hold it. Hold it.

SHARPTON: Does that make everybody a Tea Party racist? I don't think…

O'REILLY: I am going to deny that. Here is what I'm going to deny. I'm going to deny that the Tea Party platform, the movement itself is based on race at all. It isn't. What happens is, in any organization, including your own, you have nuts. You have loons. People who take it way too far who may be racist themselves. You cannot demonize any organization by the actions of a few in a demonstration. That's insane.

SHARPTON: I don't think you can do that. But I think that if we were to sit here and say that in the Tea Party that there is not some leaves in that tea bag that are racist.

O'REILLY: Well, then, you've got to prove, you've got to make that — you've got to prove it. You have got to prove it.

SHARPTON: People standing outside of Congress using the n-word.

O'REILLY: How do you know they did that?

SHARPTON: I have seen the tape.

O'REILLY: There is no tape. There is no tape with the n-word on it. There's no way. Let's be clear. There is no tape.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: So everyone hallucinated the n-word use?

O'REILLY: I don't know what happened and you haven't seen the tape.

SHARPTON: And the f-word against Barney Frank?

O'REILLY: You haven't seen the tape.

SHARPTON: There were all kinds of reporters that were there, Bill.

O'REILLY: No. No reporter said this one said the n-word. The police who were there didn't hear any n-word. I'm not saying it didn't happen. I know John Lewis, and I think Lewis is an honorable man. If he says it happened to him, if Lewis says it happened to him, I will believe Lewis. He is an honorable man, but Lewis won't come on this program or any other program and make that accusation. You have got to be careful, Reverend. You just said you heard the n-word on a tape. There is no tape.

SHARPTON: Well, Mr. O'Reilly.

O'REILLY: Yes.

SHARPTON: You will concede if the n-word and the f-word was used, they are racist and homophobic terms, right?

O'REILLY: If somebody called a sitting congressman or anybody the n-word, that is a racist action.

SHARPTON: OK.

O'REILLY: Absolutely. However, let's assume it did happen.

SHARPTON: OK.

O'REILLY: Let's assume it did happen. You can't hold the Tea Party accountable for that.

SHARPTON: I don't think you charge them and nor do I think...

O'REILLY: Pitts did.

SHARPTON: No. Pitts said that elements of that.

O'REILLY: Elements of that? What does that mean?

SHARPTON: I lead a human rights organization. If somebody said that there are elements at my convention coming up…

O'REILLY: Yes.

SHARPTON: …that have violence.

O'REILLY: They hate white people.

SHARPTON: They, based on that saying that my whole organization says that.

O'REILLY: That would be grossly unfair, right?

SHARPTON: If they said the organization — but then…

O'REILLY: That's what they are saying about the Tea Party. You just made my point. You are agreeing with me.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: I challenge you on what Pitts wrote. Pitts did not say that the Tea Party is racist.

O'REILLY: He said that — look, look, he said that there is an element of racism.

SHARPTON: Elements of racism.

O'REILLY: You just said some of the tea leaves involve racism. You can't make that assertion.

SHARPTON: Absolutely I can.

O'REILLY: Based on what?

SHARPTON: If there are some elements of those Tea Party protesters that are racist, that is absolutely correct.

O'REILLY: Well then in your group, there are some people that hate whites, so there are some elements of racism in your group.

SHARPTON: And you can you say that there are elements in every group.

O'REILLY: That's right. And so it's a specious argument. It's ridiculous.

SHARPTON: Well then, why are you denouncing Pitts for using it then? You are the one…

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: It's unfair, that's why.

SHARPTON: Why?

O'REILLY: Because he is demonizing the Tea Party by a reactions of loons.

SHARPTON: He says an element. He says an element.

O'REILLY: Loons, that's nothing to do with the Tea Party.

SHARPTON: Look, this element is absolutely…

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: Reverend, that would be like saying that America is a homicidal country because Charles Manson is an American. You can't do that.

SHARPTON: No. It would be like saying America is a great country that has elements of homicide in it, which is true.

O'REILLY: All right. Well, that can be true.

SHARPTON: He said elements.

O'REILLY: He singled out the Tea Party.

SHARPTON: Well, you singled out Pitts.

O'REILLY: I singled out Pitts for being dishonest.

SHARPTON: For using the terms "elements."

O'REILLY: No. For trying to demonize a party because of the actions of some loons.

SHARPTON: I think you argument is elementary.

O'REILLY: All right. We'll let the audience decide. Always fun to debate with you. And I know you are a standup guy for coming up.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

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