This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," July 10, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.
COLMES: Welcome to "Hannity & Colmes." I'm Alan Colmes. Rich Lowry in for Sean tonight. Good to see you once again, Rich.
RICH LOWRY, FOX NEWS HOST: Hi, Alan.
COLMES: And we get right to our top story tonight and it feels a little bit like deja vu.
The Reverend Al Sharpton taking an issue with the Web site roboho" to describe an outfit worn by Beyonce Knowles to the BET Awards . TMZ maintains that the column was meant to be humorous but TMZ also reported on Reverend Sharpton's reaction, reportedly saying that the phrase "roboho" is demeaning and abusive and that the word "ho" should not be tolerated under any circumstances.
Joining us now in a "Hannity & Colmes" exclusive is the president of the National Action Network, Reverend Sharpton and the managing editor of tmz.com Harvey Levin .
Harvey, welcome to "Hannity & Colmes." Reverend Sharpton, do you think this was meant to be racial or racist?
REV. AL SHAPRTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: I think that, as you know, we in the National Action Network have been embarked in a decency initiative. We talked about it here on this show. Tamika Mallory heads it. We're getting ready to do a 20 city vigil where we have asked for the "N" word, the "H" word and "B" word to not be used. When people who read this Web site heard it they started e-mailing into the decency initiative and Ms. Mallory wanted to make a statement and we made a statement.
He has the right to say it, no one is censoring it, but we have the right to say it is inappropriate.
COLMES: Do you think it is a racist comment?
SHARPTON: I think that unfortunately many times this "H" word is used with black women. But if it were used with any women, it would be wrong.
COLMES: Harvey Levin, you used actually that word with a man, didn't you?
HARVEY LEVIN, MANAGING EDITOR, TMZ.COM: We called Kid Rock a "ho." And I have to tell you something, the reverend, who I personally like, is awfully tepid tonight because what he said yesterday was just dead wrong. When he sent us the letter he said we called Beyonce a ho, a roboho. And we didn't. We said that her outfit was a roboho get up. And I think he corrected himself today because he realized that he was basically going into bully mode, and it backfired on him.
So not only do we not apologize, what we did was right and if you look at our Web site today, there are hundreds of posts where this just backfired on Reverend Sharpton.
SHARPTON: Well, again, now he is going to tell me what I said. Tepid is his hope. I think that what he said, I think, one, I do not see Harvey Levin, he is right, I know and have a lot of respect for, I do not see him as a racist.
But I think he is dead wrong and out of his mind if he thinks anyone buys that to say someone was in that kind of outfit, you are not referring to them as the ho. There is no outfit.
SHARPTON: Let me finish. Let us be at least straight. We can disagree, Harvey, but let's not fabricate. There is no way someone like Beyonce, or any other women who you describe the outfit as describing the outfit worn by them, "roboho" refers to the person in the outfit. This is a young lady who has gone out of her way to show a real wholesome kins od attitude with lyrics and other things, that did not deserve that. I would be the first to say that you are somebody I'd respect but I'd be the last one to buy that kind of spin.
COLMES: Harvey, is the word "ho" demeaning?
LEVIN: No. It is in the vernacular. And this is part of Americana. We do not speak the queen's English on tmz.com. And the reverend knows it. And if I may, the reverend mistakenly wrote us a letter and said we called Beyonce a "ho." He is backpedaling right now.
SHARPTON: I am saying outright that you called her a "ho." You called her a "roboho." And that is not back pedaling.
LEVIN: No we didn't.
SHARPTON: What is the statement you made Harvey? Repeat the statement.
LEVIN: I will. May I?
LEVIN: OK. We said that she was wearing a "roboho performance getup." That's what we said.
SHARPTON: And that does not refer to her?
LEVIN: Hey, dude, no it does not. It says the getup.
SHARPTON: The second problem is that "ho" is now Americana, so I suppose anyone using then "ho" word including Mr. Imus was just talking American now?
LEVIN: Reverend, let me make this real clear. You're not going to Imus us. This was a situation.
SHARPTON: I asked you a question. You're Imusing yourself by saying that "ho" is a great American word. You're Imusing yourself. I said I had respect for.
LEVIN: You are making this a racial issue, and it was not a racial issue, and you're trying to bully people and it is wrong. You have no right to censor people.
SHARPTON: I don't think I mentioned race. I think I answered his question. What I said was that you, to say this is an American word, some great American acceptable word, I think you are putting yourself over there, not me. I think that's an unfortunate position for you to take.
LOWRY: Hold on one sec. Hold on. Harvey, it's Rich Lowry.
Let me ask you a question to try to cut to the quick of this debate. Two quick yes or no questions. Do you believe Beyonce is a prostitute? Yes or no.
LOWRY: Of course not.
Do you believe that she is a robot? Yes or no.
LOWRY: So obviously, you are referring to the costume. And reverend, I think even you have to admit.
SHARPTON: First of all, the term, ho used in any context whether there is an adjective before it or not, is demeaning to many women.
LOWRY: Hey, reverend, let me ask you a question. Did you call David Dinkins a whore? Quickly, please.
SHARPTON: If women are .
LOWRY: Did you call David Dinkins a whore?
SHARPTON: If Harvey wants to use the term, he has a right to use it. But if people are offended by it, they have a right to publicly come out and say it. He has a Web site. Victoria Beckham has worn, Lindsay Lohan has worn, and it seems that the reverend here wants to create a new civil right for celebrities to dress like prostitutes and for no one to make fun of them for it.
LEVIN: I see a better issue here. And this is fun, but there is a really serious underlying issue. And that is in this country, you have got to tolerate things you do not like in order to preserve the First Amendment , in order to preserve democracy, and if people start to bullying people into fearing that, oh my God, if I say something I could offend people, that is exactly why we have a constitution.
And then suddenly, other groups step in and they start to bully, and we turn around and we say, wow, this isn't as free a country as we thought. And that's a huge danger and that's the biggest problem I have with what the reverend did.
SHARPTON: May I respond to that?
SHARPTON: I think that if we were saying to Mr. Levin and that we were going to do something to his company or any of that, he would have some merit. What Mr. Levin seems to be able to sell is that he wants to say, I can say something, but no one can respond.
He has the right to say whatever he wants and in the same First Amendment and the same free speech, we have the right to say we do not like that. Now one is bullying anybody. How is it bullying when people answer, you say something?
You just said you felt the clothes looked like a prostitute. You had the right to say it. I didn't interrupt you Harvey.
LEVIN: Fair enough.
SHARPTON: No one is marching on you, Harvey. I am expressing to you a disagreement. That is free speech. I have a right to say I disagree with you, Mr. Levin.
LOWRY: Harvey, go ahead.
LEVIN: But the problem, reverend, you absolutely have a right to disagree, but you played the race card on us and that's where I have the problem.
SHARPTON: How did I play the race card?
LEVIN: You played a race.
SHARTPON: By saying to you we disagree? By saying to you that women all over America are organizing to say they want to stop seeing the word "ho" stop being — that is not playing any card. That is saying that we disagree with your terminology, and you have the right to say it, we have the right to respond. You can promote your Web site, I welcome people to go to nationalactionnetwork.net to get the other side as we organize to stop the "N" word, the "H" word and the "B" word. Because we have the same right you do.
LOWRY: Let him respond. Go ahead, Harvey.
LEVIN: Right. But the problem is in your letter you said this was an attack on African-American women, and it is not and you know it is not.
SHARPTON: I think a lot of African-American women .
COLMES: But reverend, he called Kid Rock a ho.
SHARPTON: I think if Tamika Mallory was on, which I offered, and other women, they would tell you why they are offended by this. Not only with you, with others, including blacks that are using it and I think that as I detailed in the letter, someone like Beyonce who is someone who has gone out of her way not to act a certain way, I think the evidence of why these women are sent ironically was given by Rich Lowry who said this was like a prostitute.
So you're saying it wasn't a ho, he said it is like a prostitute. So you're really saying exactly what .
COLMES: You see, in your defense, Harvey, he has called Lindsey Lohan, a "ho-ror", Kid Rock a "ho," Posh Spice was called a poshtitute, whores. There is nothing racial about it when he was equally applying ...
SHARPTON: I would say in any of those cases I would disagree. No one brought that to the Decency Initiative. If you go to nationalactionnetwork.net, you would see we have attacked black artists, we've attacked whites, we have attacked anybody who was used the term. We have one standard.
COLMES: Harvey, doesn't Al Sharpton. You're exercising free speech at TMZ, it's a funny, entertaining Web site. Doesn't Al Sharpton have the equal right to come back and say now I am going to exercise my free speech in response to what you're doing? That's the way free speech works, right?
LEVIN: Absolutely. My only problem is using the race card. I will state an absolute truth right now, that Beyonce was wearing a roboho getup. And I stick by it. She was, we called it as we saw it. And that's that.
SHARPTON: And I would say that I feel the inference of that attacks her, and I think that is unfair. I think that Mr. Levin has a right to say it, but those of us have a right to respond.
COLMES: People hear you respond to this and they think of Imus. They think look what he is going to do, he is going to go after TMZ and maybe after their sponsors and.
SHARPTON: And TMZ wrote back. You asked us to come on the show. Harvey Levin is no Don Imus . He is well respected by a lot of people including me. I disagree with him on this and I have a lot of respect for what Ms. Mallory is doing.
COLMES: Don Imus may resurface on radio in January. Will you go after whoever hires Imus?
SHARPTON: I will do what I said when we sat on this stage with his sidekick. We will monitor and watch what he does.
COLMES: Will you automatically object if someone hires him again?
SHARPTON: No one ever said that he should never work again. We said that Imus should pay for what he did in a job he continually abused. I do not think we will take any position until we see what it is and how it is and we will do what we think is fair at that time if that time comes.
COLMES: Harvey, free speech? You say it, he says it, your response, now what happens on TMZ tomorrow as a result of all this?
SHARPTON: He is going to go to nationalactionnetwork.net and we'll continue this debate.
LEVIN: I can tell you. We are looking for the next roboho get-up.
SHARPTON: And we're looking for the next guy that uses the term "ho," the "N" word or the "B" word. Nationalactionnetwork.net.
LOWRY: We've got to leave it there. Harvey, thank you very much. Reverend, thank you very much. And just for the record, you are dressed very tastefully tonight. I approve.
SHARPTON: Well, I think that was sleazy myself.
LOWRY: We'll take it up later.
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