Sharpton Withholds Endorsement for Obama

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," March 13, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: As the race for the Democratic presidential nomination heats up, Senator Barack Obama is looking to strengthen his African-American base, but one prominent African-American leader has kept his endorsement on hold. The Reverend Al Sharpton, citing Obama's help in the re-election of war-supporting Senator Joe Lieberman, has yet to reach out and endorse the Illinois senator.

Joining us now with reaction, the founder of the National Action Network, the Reverend Al Sharpton. Are you leaning toward Obama?

THE REVEREND AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I'm very impressed with him, but I think, you know, there was this story that some of his people floated that I was not supportive because of some jealousies. What I have said is I have not come out for any candidate until we deal with various issues.

I'm very committed to a civil rights agenda. I don't see where the difference is. Reverend Jerry Falwell hasn't come out for a candidate, Pat Robertson. Newt Gingrich just left here. Why don't you have a story that Newt Gingrich hasn't come out for any white candidate yet? I mean, why are we playing the black guy against the black guy?

COLMES: Why do you think your endorsement is significant?

SHARPTON: I don't know. I didn't create the story. I responded to a story. I think that, when we come out, we will try to mobilize and organize in areas that people respect us, but I think it must be around an agenda, like everybody else in power.

COLMES: How important is it to break the race barrier with the presidency?

SHARPTON: I think that it is important to break the race barrier, as long as we are talking about issues that are good for everybody. We broke the race barrier with the secretary of state, but I didn't agree with the policies of Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice. So race is...

COLMES: But certainly Obama is much closer to where you are politically than Colin Powell is.

SHARPTON: And I think that that's we need the discussions. Edwards is talking about poverty. I think that's good. Some things that health care Mrs. Clinton is talking about is good. Something Obama is talking about is good.

We need to not have to guess on what's going to happen to the Justice Department, what is going to happen with issues that we consider very important, in terms of discrimination, and broader issues like health care and education. And that's why it would be premature to get personality before we deal with policy.

COLMES: Do you think Barack Obama would be able to achieve a level of national support that you as a candidate when you ran were never able to achieve?

SHARPTON: I hope he will. I hope that, if Obama is the nominee, I hope he wins. I hope if any of them are, I hope they win. But, again, every part of that broad constituency has concerns that all ought to be heard. And nobody should be assumed to inherit anything without being clear on the policies of the...


SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Are you sure his team floated that story?

SHARPTON: I believe they did.

HANNITY: You believe -- do you have any evidence?

SHARPTON: I was told that by some of your friends in this corporation that owns...


HANNITY: Is he trying to bully you into an endorsement, as the "New York Daily News" said today?

SHARPTON: I think probably some people support -- I don't know that it's him. I mean, he and I are exchanging phone calls. We have not talked yet. I think some...


HANNITY: You've not spoken at all?

SHARPTON: He's called me. I've called him.

HANNITY: Yes, all right, well, you're upset about his endorsement of Joe Lieberman in Connecticut over the war issue.

SHARPTON: No, I'm not upset about that. I said that, when the reporter asked me where we disagreed, we disagreed. He campaigned for Lieberman; I and others felt, as antiwar people, we had to go with Ned Lamont. There are other issues that we may agree.

HANNITY: Let me ask you this. In an e-mail that Barack -- hang on.

SHARPTON: So did others. Ms. Clinton and others supported Joe Lieberman.

HANNITY: What is Hillary Clinton going to say when you support Barack Obama? Does she want your endorsement? She met with you.

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I think that everybody that is in the Democratic primary wants Democrats...

HANNITY: Wants Reverend Al's endorsement?

SHARPTON: ... and anybody else's.


HANNITY: Well, not necessarily. You know what...

SHARPTON: I just sat here and watched you talk to Newt. Did you ask Newt, as a white Republican, who he didn't endorse tonight, Mr. Giuliani?


HANNITY: A lot of people say that you bring a lot of baggage, Tawana Brawley. You bring Freddy's at 125th Street.

SHARPTON: If you look at the polls, Mr. Hannity, if you look at the polls, Mr. Hannity...

HANNITY: You are a divisive political figure. Yes, sir. Yes, Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: ... a lot of people said that, if we hadn't supported Lamont, he would not have won the primary. So a lot of -- you're talking about...

HANNITY: A lot of people think that hurt him in the general election.

SHARPTON: ... 21 years ago, we had a case that people disagreed with. A lot of people are not dealing with one in 21 years...


HANNITY: Are you denying you're a politically divisive figure?

SHARPTON: Yes, I divide those that believe that health care for everybody from those that don't. I believe in civil rights from those that don't.

HANNITY: No, stop it. You're a controversial figure. Why even argue with that?


SHARPTON: ... Newt Gingrich, and you asked me about being divisive? You ask me about being controversial?

HANNITY: He didn't use term "interloper" that resulted in Freddy's at 125st Street. He wasn't there in the Tawana Brawley case.


SHARPTON: ... 21 years ago...


HANNITY: And you still haven't apologized.

SHARPTON: Apologized for something I believed in?

HANNITY: Yes, say it now. Did she lie?

SHARPTON: Let's talk about Sean Bell case that's right now.

HANNITY: No, let's talk about...

SHARPTON: Let's talk about Sean Bell right now. Let's talk about...


HANNITY: Let me ask you a question.

SHARPTON: I can show you cases...

HANNITY: You're getting angry.

SHARPTON: ... from the last 20 years that we have been correct about, but you don't want to talk about because you were wrong.

HANNITY: But you're a controversial figure.

SHARPTON: I am absolutely controversial to those that don't agree with civil rights.

HANNITY: Here's my question. In a e-mail that Barack Obama issued, he praised the former Klansman, Robert "KKK" Byrd. He said, in 2006, Senator Byrd will the target of Republicans because he stands for what he believes. He said, "Will you join me in supporting Senator Byrd's campaign for reelection?" This is a guy that used the "n" word multiple times three or four years ago.

Was that right of him to support the former Klansman who uses the "n" word?

SHARPTON: First of all, I have no idea whether he did that, whether he said...

HANNITY: I have it right here.

SHARPTON: ... but, again, I'm...

HANNITY: Is that a problem for you?


HANNITY: Barack Obama supports a former Klansman.

SHARPTON: I started this interview by why I'm not supporting anybody yet, and now you want me to defend every Democrat that's in the race?

HANNITY: No, no, I want you to defend his support of this...

SHARPTON: I can't defend anyone's support other than my own.

HANNITY: Is Senator Byrd somebody you think the Democrats should distance themselves, based on his past and his use of the "n" word?

SHARPTON: We start with I'm divisive. Now we're to Byrd. You think every Democrat is divisive.

HANNITY: Why can't you answer a question? Do you think he should be distanced?

SHARPTON: I think that Senator Byrd and others have to stand on their record.


HANNITY: Do you like him?

COLMES: We've got to run. But, you know, let's face it.


COLMES: Nobody on the set of this show is divisive. None of us.


COLMES: We'll be right back. None of us are divisive.

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