Sharpton responds to Times, mentioning de Blasio and Obama
The Rev. Al Sharpton said a front-page New York Times report saying that he and his nonprofit organization owed more than $4 million in state and federal taxes was “misleading and totally out of context,” and told reporters his organization actually owed about $800,000.
Sharpton said he was not sure how much he personally owed because it was still being negotiated, and questioned why the issue was raised now, suggesting it was motivated in part by hostility toward Bill de Blasio and Barack Obama.
In a 30-minute press conference at his Harlem office which ended with him abruptly walking out on a roomful of reporters, Sharpton said, “The National Action Network’s tax debt as of December of 2013 was a little over $400,000. ...On that, they want $400,000 in penalties. The board’s position at our national convention was that why should we have to pay 100 percent if we can knock it down. But we continued to pay the monthly installment while we did.”
Asked about the combined amount in taxes that he and his organization owed—$4.5, million according to the Times— Sharpton said, “How could I owe what you originally owed in 2008. Then that would have meant we paid none of the installments and that we didn’t put up the $1 million that everybody reported.”
Toward the end of the event, Sharpton said his organization is positioned to be clear of its tax debt.
“We’re negotiating that we want to try and get a lower figure on penalties to just pay it all off," he said. "And clearly, I’ve said National Action Network is in a position to pay, to write a check tonight, if they weren’t trying to get a 100 percent, a dollar for a dollar, and I’m in a position, if we can get some of the penalties down.”
Sharpton also disputed an allegation in the story that he used money from the organization to help pay private-school tuition bills for his two daughters.
According to the story, “He has leaned on the generosity of friends and sometimes even the organization, intermingling its finances with his own to cover his daughters’ private school tuition. ... Mr. Sharpton said National Action Network had also once lent him money to cover his daughters’ tuition.”
The story referred to comments Sharpton made during an earlier deposition about his finances.
In Harlem today, Sharpton expanded on those remarks.
“I think that my response was I can get friends and or borrow money from National Action Network, meaning borrow against my salary at the time," he said. "That is not commingling money.”
Referring to the the Times reporter who interviewed him for the story, Russ Buettner, Sharpton said today, “But the strange part is the reporter and I both agreed I didn't even do that. I didn’t borrow that. There’s not one dime that National Action Network ever paid for my children’s tuition.”
Asked for his explanation of the scrutiny on him and his finances, Sharpton said, “I think it’s political.”
He also said, “A lot of people don’t like the fact that President Obama’s the president. A lot of people do not like the fact that Bill de Blasio won for mayor. And they certainly don’t like that I’m still here, and I ain't going nowhere.”
CORRECTION: Russ Buettner's name was misspelled in the original version of this article.