LOS ANGELES - The Rev. Al Sharpton has created his own media company and will launch a nationally syndicated Sunday-morning TV show on Sept. 26, he told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday.
The civil rights advocate will unveil his 30-minute show, "Education Superhighway," Thursday at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 40th Annual Legislative Conference. It's already cleared in 150 markets.
Sharpton's media company, ESH Holdings (named after the series' initials) will produce the TV show as well as a planned print magazine.
The TV show consists of news and roundtable discussions primarily about education. Guests already lined up include Bill Gates, Newt Gingrich, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten.
Sharpton is a frequent commentator on cable news outlets, including The Fox News Channel, where he's often highlighted as the voice of dissent on shows like "The Sean Hannity Show" and "The O'Reilly Factor." The new TV show will not cut into his time as a guest on other shows. "Bill O'Reilly and I can't even agree that we're on the same channel, anyways," Sharpton quipped.
He once had his own reality TV show, "I Hate My Job," that ran on Spike TV for a year beginning in 2004, and he hosts his own radio show.
Sharpton first shot to nationwide fame in 1987 when he took on the cause of Tawana Brawley, a 15-year-old black girl who claimed she had been raped by six white men, including some police officers. A jury determined she made up the story, but the fiery oratory that Sharpton displayed throughout the fracas cemented his reputation in the media as a spirited and quotable civil rights leader.
Sharpton has also faced controversy over the positions he has taken that some deem anti-Semitic, such as when he referred to Jews as "the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights."
Sharpton said that if there is anything controversial about his new show it will come from those who "want education to remain mediocre."
"If Newt Gingrich and I could tour the country together ... at the request of President Obama, and they are like oil and water ... then that shows that this is one issue that all Americans should unite over," Sharpton said. "Newt and I don't agree on anything at all -- not even that today is Monday -- but we do agree that we have an education problem."
Education has become a hot-button issue, with "Waiting for Superman," a documentary chronicling problems in the public and charter school systems, slated to hit theaters this month. (please visit our entertainment blog via www.reuters.com or on http://blogs.reuters.com/fanfare/)
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