WASHINGTON – Rev. Al Sharpton told PJM that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump should release the names and titles of the “blacks and browns” working for any of his companies to support his claim that he will win the African-American vote in the general election.
“I haven’t sought a meeting with him nor has he sought a meeting with me. I think it would be interesting, though, since the subject matter today is corporations to see whether he has blacks or browns on the board or in senior management of any of his companies. I think one of the things he should do is to say to the public, since he’s predicting he’ll win the black vote, these are the blacks in the Trump organization at this level,” Sharpton said at the National Press Club.
“These are the blacks that we contract and do business with, so you can understand that I will give business opportunities because I’ve done it. He ought to come forward with all of that — his contractors, his subcontractors that are black – so that he can have the basis of saying he will win the black vote,” he added.
Sharpton said he has learned that Hillary Clinton has a diversity officer in her campaign and questioned if Trump has one on staff.
“I don’t know if he has a diversity officer on his campaign, maybe it’s Omarosa, I don’t know,” Sharpton said, referring to Omarosa Manigault, who was a contestant on Trump’s TV show The Apprentice.
Sharpton said he last met with Trump “around the birther issue” in 2011.
“I got into a long dialogue where I said I felt that it plays to racial elements — the president is other than us — and I felt that it was certainly race-tinged. He said, ‘well, you called me a racist.’ I said, ‘I never called you a racist. I said what you are doing is racial.’ This was our meeting on the birther situation,” he said.
Sharpton added that Trump has “continued in that vein, unfortunately.”
PJM asked Sharpton if he agreed with television host Larry King, a longtime friend of Trump, who has said Trump is not racist.
“The issue is not whether Mr. Trump is racist or not. I think the issue is whether he is playing to a racial climate and in some cases exacerbating it, and I’ve said publicly and I’ve said to him that I think a lot of what he is saying and a lot of what he is doing is certainly playing to a race element,” he said. “I think that is unhealthy and I think that is something that is beneath what the American electorate needs to be facing in the 2016 election. Whether he’s personally a racist or whether he’s playing a role to get votes, I have no idea. The effect is certainly that.”
Sharpton also pushed back against a New York Post report that claimed corporations have paid Sharpton and his National Action Network for consulting services to protect themselves from possible charges of racism.
“Sharpton raised $1 million for NAN at his 60th birthday bash in October, with donations rolling in from unions and a corporate roster of contributors including AT&T, McDonald’s, Verizon and Walmart,” the article stated.
“Companies have long gotten in line to pay Sharpton. Macy’s and Pfizer have forked over thousands to NAN, as have General Motors, American Honda and Chrysler.”
PJM asked Sharpton if corporations pay him consulting fees so he will stay quiet about any future race-related issues connected to his donors.
“Not only is that erroneous, that has never been supported with any facts. No corporation that has – in these instances we have given some advice to corporations, they solicited me to come and be part of an advisory board or external advisory boards to help them put into practice what they have decided they want to do,” he said. “They have nothing to do with our targeting anybody.”
Sharpton said the claims are “almost laughable” because donations or payments of $5,000 is low compared to his organization’s overall budget.
“I think that anyone knowing the multi-million dollar budget of National Action Network and my own income from radio and TV that $5,000 10 years ago is laughable, or $5,000 this year is laughable,” he said.
During the press conference, Sharpton argued corporations that “project diversity” through marketing should have “conformed” to that internally. He said Intuit is the first of many companies he is dealing with on diversity issues.
“They target to help a lot of members of the minority community around tax fraud claims but have no minorities on their board, none in their executive staff – and they will be the first of many companies we will begin dealing with,” he said.