Al Sharpton Reacts to Race Remarks by Clinton and Obama Camps

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," January 14, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


ROBERT JOHNSON, FOUNDER OF BET: I am, frankly, insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues, when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book.


SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: That was Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson speaking on behalf of the Clinton campaign. Now Johnson's comments were taken by many as a slap at Obama's admitted drug use as a teen, but the BET founder says it was a reference to the senator's community service record. The comment put Bill Clinton on the defense, and he's been publicly defending Johnson, all the while still feeling the heat from his own firestorm.

Just last week, the former president referred to the Obama campaign as a, quote, fairy tail. Clinton then had to clarify his own remarks, and here's what he said on the Reverend Al Sharpton's radio show.


WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's put together a great campaign. It's clearly not a fairy tale. It's real. And I've gone out of my way not to express any personal disrespect for him or his campaign, even when they've been fairly critical of me and Hillary.


HANNITY: Joining us now is National Action Network founder, the Reverend Al Sharpton. Reverend Al, welcome back. Good to talk to you.


HANNITY: First of all, do you believe the explanation of Mr. Johnson?

SHARPTON: Well, I think that, first of all, there's been a lot said on both sides. I think Bob Johnson, who's very respected as an entrepreneur, has the right to make his claim any more than anybody else. I mean, people have attacked all of us in public life going back to our childhood. I think that we're avoiding the real issues and dealing with a whole lot of rhetoric back and forth.

The real issues is what I'd like to see the candidates and their surrogates get down to, rather then this whole back and forth that wastes everybody's time.

HANNITY: Let me ask you, because there's been a series of attacks — Bill Shaheen, who is the husband of ex Governor of New Hampshire Jean Shaheen, raised the question of whether or not Barack Obama sold drugs, similar to the comments that we just heard. Andrew Young said about Bill Clinton, he's probably gone with more black women than Barack. He's a supporter. Bob Kerrey talked about Barack Obama spending a little time in a secular Madrassa, called him Barack Huseein Obama, his full name.

Do you think that the Clintons, in any way, are playing the race card here?

SHARPTON: There's been, in my opinion, stuff said on both sides. I've heard some of Senator Obama's supporters say Hillary Clinton cried because she saw her hair style. I think all of this is distractions. What's insulting to me is when they ought to be discussing whether they're playing to the African-American vote, racial disparities and justice in health care and all. We're going through all of this.

Sean, every time I do your show, you read 20-year statements on me. All of this — maybe we should get to the issues.

HANNITY: You'll never forgive me. Look at where the race is right now. Right now, we have a racial divide in the Democratic Party. Obama leads Hillary among African-Americans. Hillary's leading among white voters. And here's my question to you, I don't buy into that the Clintons have been that supportive of the black community. Bill Clinton has said on multiple occasions his political mentor, J. William Fulbright, a known segregationist. Al Gore's father wasn't there for the 1964 civil rights act. Bill Clinton didn't appoint nearly as many African-Americans to high positions of power as this president, George Bush.

I'll go back to my question, do the Clintons have a race problem?

SHARPTON: First of all, I think that there was no one more critical of Bill Clinton when he was in office for the civil rights community than me. But I think no one can compare Bill Clinton's civil right's record with President Bush.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Here's what's happening —

SHARPTON: Appointing African-Americans does not mean you have a good civil rights record. And that's why I think we need to get to the civil rights issues of the status, in terms of the gap between blacks and whites in the country. That's the issue.

COLMES: Reverend, it's Alan. Welcome back to the show. It seems to me that conservatives who don't like Hillary Clinton to begin with want to attack the Clintons and make it seem as though they have a race problem, even though here's a guy — more African-Americans got jobs under Clinton, more African-American and Hispanic youth got jobs when Clinton was president. He puts his office in Harlem. He was very good to the African- American community. He was very good in terms of civil rights.

Hannity is laughing at me.

HANNITY: How many times has he been to the office?


SHARPTON: The real point, Alan, is this; I think the only ones that are going to gain from this is the Republicans. I think that Senator Obama and Senator Clinton and their supporters would do well to really try to raise this to a level of some real substantive policies toward African-Americans and not continue this back and forth. I think Senator Obama has tried to do that. I think all should try to do that.

COLMES: We're getting in the middle of a war of rhetoric and misinterpreting what each side is saying. Who do you think has the better policies for African-Americans?

SHARPTON: I think that's the case they must make. What I'm saying is that we're not clear. We ought to be debating tonight — Sean Hannity and you and I ought to be talking about whether what they've laid out, in terms of closing the gap with criminal justice, or health care, or education, is better than —

COLMES: Have either of them done that? We only have 60 seconds left, Reverend, with you. Which candidate has done better along the lines you just laid out?

SHARPTON: I think that we have seen very little substance. I like the fact Senator Obama's now talking about some of the stuff with hate crimes. I think senator Clinton also had brought that up around Jena. I want to hear more about that. I could care less about their surrogates attacking each other, and acting like Sean Hannity going into people's backgrounds.


COLMES: He didn't bring up any of your last statement. Are you leaning towards endorsing either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

SHARPTON: I will endorse whoever has the best program of civil rights. I'm a civil rights activist. You just got through with Newt Gingrich. He supports who's closer to what Reagan was about. I happen to believe in what I'm about and right now I'm waiting to see who's closest to that.

COLMES: Which way are you leaning?

SHARPTON: Right now I'm leaning toward whoever comes with the best program for our civil rights —

COLMES: No initials. Thank you very much.

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