He helped the FBI secretly record mobsters with a bugged briefcase, but the Rev. Al Sharpton said Tuesday that he’s no rat.
Facing stunning new details of his work as a federal informant, Sharpton said he “did what was right” when he helped an FBI-NYPD task force known as the “Genovese Squad” go after Mafia figures in the 1980s.
“I was not and am not a rat because I wasn’t with the rats,” he said. “I’m a cat. I chase rats.”
Sharpton called a press conference at the Harlem headquarters of his National Action Network to respond to a story by The Smoking Gun website detailing his undercover work.
He said he went to the feds after his life was threatened by mobsters — and that in his mind, he was not an informant, even though the government referred to him in court papers as CI-7, short for Confidential Informant 7.
“I don’t know if I’m C-7 or B-19. I don’t know none of that,” he said. “I know I was threatened. I did what anybody would do…other than a thug. And I cooperated.”
I’m a cat. I chase rats.
The revelations come as Sharpton prepares to host a three-day convention of the National Action Network that will feature an address Wednesday by Mayor de Blasio and a speech Friday by President Obama.
The White House refused to comment on the revelations but de Blasio had no such reluctance.
“Doesn’t change the relationship one bit. I’m very proud to be his friend,” de Blasio said. “I think he has done a lot of good for the City of New York and this country.”
The mayor appeared to accept Sharpton’s version of events – that he was threatened by the mob when he pushed for more black concert promoters to get work in the mobbed-up music business.
“What’s obvious from what he said this very morning is that 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 Smoking Gun reported – as other news organizations have in the past — that Sharpton became an informant after he was caught on a video nodding along as a drug kingpin discussed cocaine deals. His cooperation allegedly prevented the possibility that he would be charged.
Portrait of American religious leader and civil rights activist Reverrend Al Sharpton in his office, New York, New York, January 20, 1991. (Photo by New York Times Co./Chester Higgins Jr./Getty Images) Photos like this, the Rev. Al Sharpton admits, ’embarass’ him; his cooperation with the feds, not so much. PreviousNextPortrait of American religious leader and civil rights activist Reverrend Al Sharpton in his office, New York, New York, January 20, 1991. (Photo by New York Times Co./Chester Higgins Jr./Getty Images) FILE–Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, center, wearing the bathrobe, is escorted to court in this Sept. 11, 1995 file photo after being arrested in a massive RICO case. Gigante, 69, now faces trial for those crimes and a host of lesser offenses as the purported head of New York’s Genovese crime family and a powerful member of organized crime’s national board of directors, known as the “Commission.” A jury was expected to be impaneled, followed by opening statements, on Wednesday, June 25, 1997. (AP Photo/Newsday, Al Raia, file) Surveillance photos provided by the FBI to thesmokinggun.com in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Enlarge
NEW YORK TIMES CO./GETTY IMAGES
Sharpton claimed that video simply recorded a failed sting.
The author of the Smoking Gun story, William Bastone, said Sharpton’s claims don’t hold water.
“The idea that he made the recordings because this guy supposedly threatened him …. It’s just totally crazy,” Bastone said.
“He may not like considering himself a confidential informant, but that’s what he was. He wasn’t doing this out of the goodness of his heart.”
Sharpton cast the new attention on his work with the feds as racist. He said that while blacks who help law enforcement are called snitches, “We make heroes in other communities who fight crime.”
Sharpton’s cooperation with the FBI had been reported as far back as 1988, but The Smoking Gun revealed that he had 10 face-to-face meetings — all recorded — with Joseph (Joe Bana) Buonanno, a Gambino family member.
The recordings were used to help get judicial approval for wiretaps to bug two Genovese family social clubs, three cars used by mobsters and many of their phones — and those wiretaps, in turn, produced evidence that helped to convict several Mafioso, the Smoking Gun reported.
Sharpton said Wednesday that he would do it all again.
But he said he had one regret: the re-appearance of photos from the 1980s that show his much-heftier self.
“We’re used to the attacks,” he said. “The only thing I was embarrassed by is those old fat pictures. Could y’all use tomorrow the new [ONES]? Because a lot of my younger members don’t know how fat I was.”
With Corinne Lestch
Rev. Al Sharpton worked as FBI informant in the ’80s: report