*Calling out conservatives on “Politics Nation” is the Rev. Al Sharpton’s calling card evey weeknight. And now you can add his decision to work as an undercover informant for the FBI as another thing on the civil rights activist’s list of things he doesn’t regret.
On Tuesday, Sharpton responded to a report from The Smoking Gun that detailed his close ties to President Barack Obama as well as the work he did as an informant for a joint FBI-NYPD task force investigating the Genovese and Gambino crime families in the 1980s.
“I think that if a civil rights leader and a minister has to apologize for inadvertently getting bad guys out of the music industry, then we’re in a sad day in America,” Sharpton said during an interview with NBC News’ Pete Williams.
Sharpton’s stint with the task force goes back to the mid-‘80s after he and other black concert promoters received death threats from members of the mob, according to the Smoking Gun report, which noted conversations with Genovese boss Vincent “Chin” Gigante and other Mafioso that Sharpton captured with a special recording device hidden in his briefcase.
The report also stated that its information was based on confidential FBI affidavits, documents obtained through FOIA requests, court records and extensive interviews with law enforcement officers. Although Sharpton denied his role as a confidential FBI informant, the “Politics Nation” host explained during his NBC News interview that he wasn’t sure what he was considered when he worked for the feds.
“I cooperated with the investigation,” Sharpton said. “Now does that make me an informant or a cooperating witness? I don’t know. But that’s what I did.”
Despite not knowing what his official job title was, Sharpton admitted that his motivation for aligning with the task force was related more to fear.
“I come out of the church. I come out of the civil rights community, and I’m talking to a guy who’s talking about killing people,” he shared. “… This is not ‘The Sopranos’ on television. This is real-deal guys who control the music industry in the ‘80s. Of course I’m going to try to get law enforcement to protect me.”
According to the Smoking Gun report, which surfaced on Monday, law enforcement sources were quoted saying that Sharpton cooperated with the task force after he was recorded at a meeting with an undercover agent who talked about a cocaine deal. The report highlighted the fact that although Sharpton did not explicitly offer to arrange a drug deal, the recording was used as leverage to get him to cooperate with the investigation.
Sharpton’s role as an informant is hardly breaking news. New York Newsday reported on it in 1988. Years later, Sharpton himself briefly mentioned it in his autobiography, “The Rejected Stone,” which was published in October 2013.
Despite the details mentioned in the report, Sharpton sharply denied the Smoking Gun’s account during his NBC News interview.
“The whole idea that, at 29 years old … that I’m going to say, ‘Oh, wire me up because you brought up a drug deal!’ I was not into drugs, never was into drugs … I mean the whole story’s ludicrous.”
To see Sharpton’s interview with NBC news, check out the videos below: