Comcast, Al Sharpton named in $20 billion racial discrimination suit
The National Association of African-American Owned Media is suing Comcast, Time Warner Cable, various black advocacy groups, and Al Sharpton for $20 billion dollars, claiming the defendants discriminate, or facilitate discrimination against black owned media companies.
The group claims that Sharpton and other black advocacy groups were "bought off" by Comcast/TWC to support the upcoming merger between the two media giants.
According to the lawsuit, Comcast and TWC "collectively spend approximately $25 billion annually for the licensing of pay-television channels and advertising of their products and services, yet 100% African American–owned media receives less than $3 million per year."
At the time of Comcast's 2010 acquisition of NBCUniversal, Comcast entered into memoranda of understanding with the NAACP, the National Urban League and the National Action Network, but the lawsuit says the voluntary diversity agreements are "a sham, undertaken to whitewash Comcast's discriminatory business practices."
The plaintiff objects that the only fully black-owned channel picked up by Comcast is the Africa Channel, and that entity is owned by former Comcast/NBCU exec Paula Madison, who "was directly involved in putting together the sham MOUs and obtaining government approval for the Comcast acquisition of NBC Universal, thus creating a serious conflict of interest."
Other black channels are said to be "window dressing," with black celebrities as "fronts" when they are "white-owned businesses" that are run by friends or family of Comcast executives.
The lawsuit goes on to say that Comcast made large cash "donations" to obtain support for its acquisition. The money includes $3.8 million to Sharpton and his National Action Network. The money, it's charged, was meant to pay Sharpton to endorse the NBCU deal and divert attention away from discrimination. As for Sharpton's MSNBC gig, the complaint says, "Despite the notoriously low ratings that Sharpton's show generates, Comcast has allowed Sharpton to maintain his hosting position for more than three years in exchange for Sharpton's continued public support for Comcast on issues of diversity."
In a secret video recorded by conservative guerrilla reporter James O'Keefe, the daughter of Eric Garner. the man who died while in a police chokehold in New York, says that Sharpton will do anything for money:
One of O’Keefe’s investigators poses as a Garner supporter with a hidden camera during a protest last month at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island.
“You think Al Sharpton is kind of like a crook in a sense?” the investigator is heard asking Garner’s oldest daughter.
“He’s about this,” Snipes replies, rubbing her fingers together.
“He’s about money with you?” the undercover asks.
“Yeah,” Snipes responds.
Snipes, 24, also complained that the Staten Island director of Sharpton’s National Action Network, Cynthia Davis, scolded her for handing out street fliers about her father’s case that did not include NAN’s logo.
“She started attacking me. ‘Oh, I see that you got this flier out, how come you didn’t add the logo?’ ’’ Snipes said.
The undercover then asks, “They want their logo on your fliers?”
“Instead of me, he wants his face in front,” Snipes says, referring to Sharpton
“But it’s not about them, it’s about your dad,” the undercover says.
“Exactly,” Snipes responds.
“Al Sharpton paid for the funeral. She’s trying to make me feel like I owe them,” she adds.
This certainly gives credence to the notion that Sharpton would sell out the black community for cash.
It doesn't seem likely that this case will ever go to trial. It's a heavy burden of proof on the plaintiffs to meet and simply citing statistics isn't enough. Still, the suit shines a light on a very underreported aspect of racial politics in America; even supposedly high minded activists can be as greedy as anyone.