NEW YORK (PIX11) — Reverend Al Sharpton’s name has been splashed across the headlines for decades, as he’s been front and center in some of the nations’ fiercest debates.
Sharpton sat down one-on-one with PIX11 News’ Kori Chambers to discuss his work and legacy.
After decades of activism, Sharpton has also sparked plenty of controversy. There’s one case in particular his critics won’t let him forget: Tawana Brawley.
In 1987, 15-year-old girl from Duchess County claimed to have been raped and tortured by four white men, including a county prosecutor who later won a defamation lawsuit. Sharpton helped bring the story to the world.
“I believed her,” Sharpton said. “My involvement was based on what I believed to be the case.”
As for critics who raise questions about Sharpton’s handling of the Brawley case, he points to his success protecting the Central Park Five.
“They called me names then,” Sharpton told PIX11 News. “I ended up being right about that … I used the same procedures.”
After Brawley, Sharpton was tied to another controversy: Riots in Brooklyn that pitted Blacks against Orthodox Jews. It all started when 7-year-old Gavin Cato was run down by a Hasidic driver. A visiting rabbinical student, Yankel Rosenbaum, died during the violence.
Sharpton was blamed for bringing some of those violent outsiders into the community. A state investigation later said he was not present in Crown Heights until the day after Rosenbaum was killed. He defended his actions, saying he did not ramp up tensions in the riots.
“They wanted quiet,” he said. “And I’m saying ‘no.’ They have a right to express outrage. I just wanted to show them how to do it in a non-violent way, which is what we did.”
Though his suits have gotten smaller as he’s gotten older, Sharpton has been at the forefront of many fights. His platform has grown, and through the decades he’s amassed a list of very powerful friends. And though his tactics have changed, Sharpton said he’s fighting for the same cause.
“Same fire. Same beliefs,” he told PIX11 News. “There’s just a big difference between how you do things at 67 than 37.”