Video: Sharpton and Lhota, after a non-endorsement meeting

Lhota and Sharpton. (Azi Paybarah via flickr)
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Here's what it looked like when Republican nominee Joe Lhota, a former top aide to Rudy Giuliani, smiled and answered questions alongside the Rev. Al Sharpton in Harlem last night.

Giuliani refused to speak with Sharpton during his eight years as mayor, and the antagonism between the two became such a symbol of the city's racial divide that a post-election handshake between Michael Bloomberg and Sharpton qualified as front-page news back in 2001.

Lhota, who faces a steeply uphill battle in the general election, has tried to position himself as a more conciliatory presence than his old boss. "I don't think there's a problem that's not negotiable," said Lhota, looking relaxed and calm, inside Sharpton's headquarters last night. "That's my overall view on life," Lhota said.

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They spoke to reporters for nine minutes, after meeting privately for just over 20 minutes. There were a few laughs, including some at the expense of reporters.

They were asked a few times about a possible endorsement, which both said was never really the goal of the meeting. (Sharpton was sufficiently impressed with Bill de Blasio that he withheld his endorsement of Bill Thompson, an old friend, during the Democratic primary.)

When asked for details about the private discussion, Sharpton said, "His wife went to seminary. We talked about the Lord. Because we knew the press was outside." As a joke, Lhota made the sign of the cross with two fingers, as if to ward off journalists.