The Playbook Interview: Al Sharpton

Sep 02, 2016

The Playbook Interview: Al Sharpton

Veteran civil rights activist and media personality Al Sharpton doesn’t mince words when it comes to fellow New Yorker Donald Trump’s focus on black voters and his upcoming visit to Detroit. In a wide-ranging interview, Sharpton, who advises President Barack Obama from time to time, called Trump’s strategy “fake outreach” and said Trump is only focused on talking with “people who are friendly and supportive of him.”

“If he wants to preach to the choir, fine, but don’t act like you’ve had a city-wide crusade,” Sharpton told Playbook. “I have never in 30 years seen Donald Trump take any positions on civil rights issues in his hometown other than when he took out ads to get the death penalty to five young men that I was defending who ended up being right after being in jail for 15 years … In his town I can’t think of one issue he ever stood up on civil rights of minorities so I think it is a little out of place and shows arrogance for him to call anyone a name in terms of racial context.”

Sharpton still hasn’t endorsed, but expects announce who he’ll support soon.

–Clinton needs to do much more outreach in black communities: “She’s got to get in black media. I don’t see anything in black radio. She’s got to really invest in turnout. She has got to deal with turnout. People can’t be lulled to sleep thinking she is so far ahead that they don’t come out … She’s got to invest in black turnout. I do not see any evidence of that as I travel around the country and I travel more than most.”

–Sharpton expects to have access in a Clinton administration: “I think I will have access to Mrs. Clinton. I don’t know that she and I have the same priority views that I have with President Obama. I think President Obama was progressive after years of the country going right and even after Bill Clinton going centrist. He was much more my kind of politics … whether I will be as visible in defending her will depend on her policies.”

–He is focused on who is going to be the next attorney general: “Everyone was concerned about who was going to be on the ticket as vice president. I’m as concerned about who is going to be the successor to the first two and only black [attorneys general] because whoever heads the Justice Department is going to determine a lot of where we are in this age on dealing with mass incarceration and police misconducts … I’m going to be watching that with a very keen eye.”