Sony Pictures Entertainment isn't the first corporation to reach out to the Rev. Al Sharpton for help with its image in the black community, and the New York Post reported Sunday
that Sharpton allegedly gets paid to keep from calling the companies racist.
Sharpton's National Action Network has received hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past decade from companies eager to gain his support or simply to keep him quiet, the Post said.
"Al Sharpton has enriched himself and NAN for years by threatening companies with bad publicity if they didn’t come to terms with him," National Legal & Policy Center Ken Boehm told the Post. "Put simply, Sharpton specializes in shakedowns."
A typical scenario involves Sharpton confronting a company over accusations of racism. He then meets with company executives, who end up contributing to NAN.
"Once Sharpton’s on board, he plays the race card all the way through," the Post quoted a person it said has worked with Sharpton as saying. "He just keeps asking for more and more money."
The Post cites a New York state inspector general's report on Plainfield Asset Management, which in 2008 gave $500,000 to Education Reform Now, which in turn gave the money to NAN.
The money was intended to promote "educational equality," but it was given at the same time Plainfield was part of a group, Capital Play, trying to build a racetrack and casino in Queens.
Plainfield denied the money was intended to curry favor from Sharpton, but a year later NAN was given another $100,000 from AEG, which had taken over for Capital Play, as a battle over the company's licensing was brewing.
The inspector general's report cited an email between two AEG employees in 2009 claiming that Sharpton had lobbied hard on the company's behalf with then-Gov. David Patterson.
Though Sharpton denied taking any action on the casino's behalf, AEG saw its payments as a way of keeping Sharpton from criticizing them and hurting their efforts, the Post quoted a person it said was familiar with the situation as saying.
Many companies have paid NAN, including American Honda, which was targeted by Sharpton in 2003 for not hiring enough minorities in management. Two months later, the company met with Sharpton and began sponsoring events put on by NAN. Sharpton's protests stopped.
Sharpton also got a $25,000-a-year consulting job with Pepsi after threatening a boycott in 2008 because he said their ads did not include black people.
General Motors for six years resisted Sharpton's requests for money, but relented after Sharpton threatened a boycott over the closing of a black-owned dealership in The Bronx.
Sony Pictures has not announced any donations to NAN after meeting with the movie studio's co-chair Amy Pascal, but Sharpton also has not given his support.
The recent hack of Sony Picture's computer system revealed racially-tinged emails Pascal wrote wondering whether President Barack Obama liked some of the company's movies – all of which were about African-Americans.
"I have had no discussion with her about money," Sharpton told The Post. "There was never even a remote discussion about money."
But he did say soon after the meeting, "The jury is still out on where we go with Amy."
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