Rev. Al Sharpton on New Poll on Race in America. Could Race Decide the 2008 Election?

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This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," September 22, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: We're just 43 days away from election day. A new Associated Press/Yahoo News poll suggests that racial prejudice may be the deciding factor in this election. According to the poll, one-third of white Democrats expressed some form of negative views toward African Americans. And while that number may not sound huge, it translates into a direct impact of as much as six-point loss, possibly, for Barack Obama.

Joining us now, the president of the National Action Network and civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton.

Rev, welcome back to the show. Good to have you with us.


COLMES: We just heard Scott Rasmussen say he doesn't think it's going to be a factor. Yet, this poll that we're talking about in this segment shows it could be. What do you say about it?

Watch Alan and Sean's interview

SHARPTON: I — you know, I agree with Scott. I'm in Philadelphia, where today we've been doing the National Action Network voter registration. I did three cities in North Carolina.

I'm amazed at how people of all races are coming out, really excited. Of course, I think there's still bias in the country, but I do not think it's to the degree that it will be a major factor in this campaign.

And I hope that it will not turn the campaign into some kind of racial polarization, attack ads playing to people's biases that I think many American voters have grown beyond.

Would I say there's no bias in America? Of course not? But I do not think it's the factor it once was, and I do not think it will determine the winner of this race.

COLMES: One of the shocking pieces of this poll is where it said that 40 percent of white Americans hold a partially negative view of blacks. Does that sound right to you?

SHARPTON: I think that there's clearly racism. Clearly, that is what we in the civil rights movement try to fight.

But I think there's a stretch to say that there's some that have biases and then there's some that have demonstrated throughout these primaries that they would not vote for Barack Obama that they would not vote for a person of color to be president.

I think that if the — we're talking about 40 percent of Democrats, if you just looked at Iowa and look at other states that were in a lopsided way, white states that voted overwhelmingly for Obama, I think it's been shown that that is not the case. And I don't think it will be the case in November.

COLMES: There's a flip side of this, that Barack Obama's helped to empower and register many young people, many African Americans, many who have not been part of the process up until now, and that could make a difference?

SHARPTON: I think that that's true. I think that, as I've traveled, and our voter registration drive is not connected to any candidate, but what we've seen in National Action Network the last few days, just doing these bus tours in North Carolina and here in Pennsylvania today, is enormous energy among young people, and a lot of young people that are not polled, by the way, because they're on cell phones.

I think that you're going to see a tremendous youth vote this time.

HANNITY: Reverend Al, the only people I see that are using race in this campaign is Barack Obama himself, who brings it up a lot, and a lot of his surrogates.

For example, he's said many times on the campaign trail, "They're going to try and make you afraid of me. They're going to say I have a funny name. They're going to say I don't look like those guys on the currency. Oh, and did they tell you, he's black?"

Can you name anyone in the McCain campaign, any prominent Republican, that has brought up any of those issues?

SHARPTON: Well, again, I think you missed what I said. I said that I don't think that race is going to be the deciding factor.

COLMES: I'm not asking you that. Barack Obama has said this five times himself, and I've got it on tape every time. He said this.

SHARPTON: I think that, if I recall, Barack Obama stood in this city, Sean, and made a whole speech about race and how we must get beyond bias, so I don't see how the one that tried to heal...

HANNITY: Wait a minute.

SHARPTON: ... the whole racial polarization that was raised about his own pastor, how...

HANNITY: No, that's not accurate. He was there...

SHARPTON: ... how you can now make him the one that is being racially the polarizer.


HANNITY: No, he was there — he was there to stop the political bleeding when his pastor of 20 years, his spiritual mentor, you know, called us the U.S. KKK of A. and "America's chickens have come home to roost," and not "God bless America," "G-D America." So he said it at that time.

But Barack Obama said repeatedly that "they're going to say I have a funny name. They're going to say that I don't look like the guys in the currency. They're going to say, "Oh, by the way, he's black.'"

The only people that I see bringing up race is Barack himself, Kathleen Sebelius, Governor Paterson, and now Michael Dukakis today. All Obama surrogates. Who in the Republican Party is bringing up race?

SHARPTON: I think that — I think that, of course — I would expect a lot of people that are going to try to attack — going to try to distort the picture. The fact is I think he's gone out of his way and has even been attacked by some in the black community for going out of his way.

HANNITY: Then why does he keep saying that?

SHARPTON: I would like to be able to finish.

HANNITY: Go ahead.

SHARPTON: Saying things like he wants to bring the races together. I think there was some that even picketed him and demonstrated the other way. So I think that, clearly, people do not feel he's trying to, in any way, play the race card or be divisive, and I don't think that he's conducted the campaign in that way.

HANNITY: If he keeps saying they're going to — they're going to say, you know, "I don't look like the guys on the currency," that's race.

But Governor Paterson in New York has said, you know, community organizing and using that word is code words. Michael Dukakis is out there saying that the McCain campaign is using the equivalent of Willie Horton ads.

But here's my question. If 90 percent — if we look historically over presidential elections, of the African American community in America votes Democratic, in the primaries, about 90 percent of the black vote went to Senator Obama, but not Senator Clinton.

Are there any conclusions that could be drawn from that? And if people do, what would you say to them?

SHARPTON: It would be that African-Americans vote like everyone else in their interests, because it couldn't be based on race, since this is the first time we've had an African-American nominee. And if we'd been voting 90 percent before Democrat, it certainly couldn't have been for a black, because we never had a black before.

So I think you, combining both points, kind of washed each other out.

HANNITY: What do you think of Democrats in this new poll that say that they harbor negative views towards African-Americans? That's the Democratic Party. That's your party, Reverend Al.

SHARPTON: I think that we've got to stop people from harboring anything, and I think Obama's campaign has tried to do that. I mean, I think when Palin says she's different than most Americans, are we saying she's being anti-man? I think it's a fact. We have different candidates this time. I think that's good. We ought to celebrate.

HANNITY: All right. Reverend Al, appreciate you being with us.

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