Al Sharpton's controversial activism

How can the nation's leading racial provocateur continue to be paid by a leading news agency?


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 25, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: "Personal Story Segment" tonight. One very interesting note about the funeral of Michael Brown today, Al Sharpton gave the eulogy. CNN and Fox News did not take that live and MSNBC only took part of it. That may be because Sharpton has become so controversial in America that it's hard to explain how a news agency, NBC, can even have him on the payroll.

Joining us now from Washington Lauren Ashburn and Howard Kurtz from the Fox News program "MEDIA BUZZ". So Howard I understand you've been critical of the NBC/Sharpton alliance.

HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS HOST: Bill, this is a travesty. You have Sharpton delivering a pretty political speech at the funeral today. You have him meeting with Michael Brown's family. You have him talking about it on MSNBC, interviewing the family on MSNBC. And now, you have the acknowledgment by Sharpton that he is a conduit, he is the go-to guy for the Obama White House on Ferguson. It is amazing to me, this just weeks that MSNBC thinks this is acceptable.

O'REILLY: Well, why is it a compliment to Sharpton that he can deliver to MSNBC exclusive stories from the White House, and from the family, of the slain boy? I mean that's what reporters are supposed to do, get exclusives.

LAUREN ASHBURN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right. But, Phil Griffin --

O'REILLY: Go ahead -- Howard. No, no, no, Lauren, Lauren, Lauren -- I'm challenging --

ASHBURN: Are you cutting me off already?

O'REILLY: Yes, already. I'm challenging Howard's opening statement. Why isn't that a compliment to Sharpton to be able to deliver that stuff?

KURTZ: Because you can't be a player and cover the game. We didn't know until this article in Politico, now "The New York Times" has a real puff piece on Sharpton today, doesn't even mention this conflict of interest that Obama was quietly working with -- excuse me that Reverend Al is working with the President to carry his message to be a conduit to Valerie Jarrett. It is so fundamental that I don't think very few news organizations would allow it.

O'REILLY: No, I don't think any other than MSNBC, and NBC News the parent company. Now, Lauren, look. It is a conflict of interest to take a sitting president, and to have a commentator basically do the sitting president's bidding. That is a conflict of interest. That is way out of the realm of what journalism used to be. Surely you know that.

ASHBURN: 100 percent agree with you. Absolutely agree that he should not be colluding with the White House and with President Obama. However, President of MSNBC --

O'REILLY: But he is.

ASHBURN: -- he is, I agree. He shouldn't be. However, the President of MSNBC, Phil Griffin, says look, we have been transparent with the audience. We are aware of his dual role, and so is the audience.

O'REILLY: All right. Here's how stupid that is. What if I was on the payroll, Lauren -- it is -- what if I was on the payroll of General Electric, all right?

ASHBURN: You wouldn't be as rich as you are now.

O'REILLY: What if I was their paid spokesperson, all right? But I still worked at Fox News. And our bosses said well we're transparent, we tell everybody O'Reilly is on the payroll at General Electric. But I couldn't do commentary on environmental issues, on business issues, I couldn't do anything. It would be insane.

So here's the rub. Here's the rub. I believe that Sharpton almost single-handedly has corrupted NBC News.

ASHBURN: I think that there are a lot of other factors that have gone in to that frankly, Bill. It's not just Al Sharpton. It is the --

O'REILLY: This is huge.

ASHBURN: It is. But the network has been leaning left and left and even more left in the last several years. It's not like one person is going to bring down the network.

O'REILLY: This is not about bring-down anything. There have to be some standards of behavior when you have a news channel, Howard, or am I insane?

KURTZ: Well, here's the thing, bill. I covered Al Sharpton in New York when he was peddling the false gang rape claims of Tawana Brawley and he told me afterwards that he still believed her. I covered him when there was a racial murder in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and he said that if there was an acquittal blacks would burn this town down.

Now he has moderated his rhetoric somewhat because he's now an inside player, because he's now dealing with the President. NBC gives him this platform and I just think there's an ethical blind spot here and Lauren you have a little bit more relaxed view of it that because he's an activist, it's ok.

ASHBURN: No, I don't. No I don't. But I also think that it is transparent what he is doing. He shouldn't be doing what he's doing with the White House. But you have to give it to him. He is a brilliant marketer with tremendous influence in the African-American community. He's gone from a laughingstock to a presidential adviser.

KURTZ: I don't agree that he has tremendous influence. I don't think the National Action Network is a major organization in this country. I think the influence comes with what we the media gives him, and NBC gives him a platform --

ASHBURN: Who did the President call, Kurtz? Who did he call? He picked up the phone he called Al Sharpton. He didn't call Jesse Jackson.


O'REILLY: There's a difference -- Lauren, I've got to wrap it up. But there's a difference between an administration and the people. And if you took a poll -- and we will on Fox News -- and we will ask Americans, do you approve of al Sharpton, yes or no? Let's see. Lauren, Howard -- thank you.

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