After documents were published this week detailing his time as an FBI informant in the 1980s, the Rev. Al Sharpton responded with a defiant news conference Tuesday, where he defended his actions and sought to turn the tables on the media. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
Al Sharpton wasted no time responding to the screaming headlines Tuesday morning calling him a mob snitch and Reverend Rat.
"Rats are usually people that were with other rats. I was not, and am not, a rat, because I wasn't with the rats," Sharpton said. "I'm a cat. I chase rats."
During a freewheeling news conference, Sharpton said he did the right thing. Back in his younger days, he said, he received a death threat after pushing for more black promoters in a Mafia-dominated music industry. He went to law enforcement officials and wore a wire to meetings with mob associates, but said he never met Vincent "the Chin" Gigante and other mob bosses he may have helped bring down.
"Conversations were recorded," he said. "And I would record them today if somebody threatened me."
Sharpton also criticized the media coverage, rejecting the idea that he was consorting with mobsters. He read about the death threat from his 1996 memoir to prove it was an old story, and he said that to paint him as a snitch is to presume that the black community is a haven for criminals.
"It's almost like, 'Well, you were supposed to keep the code.' What code? I'm not a mobster," Sharpton said. "If I had talked about a corrupt assemblyman in East Harlem, that's good government, but if I'm talking about mobsters, I'm Reverend Rat?"
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was proud to be Sharpton's friend.
"He was asked by the FBI to support their efforts and he agreed to help, and that's what a citizen should do," de Blasio said.
"The only thing I was embarrassed by is those old fat pictures," Sharpton said. "Could you all use tomorrow's cover, the new suave, because a lot of my younger members didn't know how fat I was."
The re-kindling of this story comes at perhaps a less-than-ideal time for Sharpton. His National Action Network kicks off its annual convention in Midtown Wednesday, with de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama all expected to participate.