Al Sharpton Blasts ‘Misleading’ New York Times Story About His Tax Troubles

Rev. Al Sharpton today. (Photo: Ross Barkan)

Rev. Al Sharpton today. (Photo: Ross Barkan)

Rev. Al Sharpton blasted a lengthy New York Times story detailing years of unpaid taxes, accusing the newspaper today of writing a “misleading” and blatantly political piece about past issues that he claimed were long resolved.

“The story Is at best misleading and totally out of context,” Mr. Sharpton told reporters at a press conference at his National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. “The politics of it is very interesting.”

The Times ran a front page story today about Mr. Sharpton’s repeated failure to pay taxes. Mr. Sharpton has more than $4.5 million in current state and federal tax liens against him and his for-profit businesses, according to the report, and NAN significantly underpaid taxes as well. Five years ago, when NAN owned $1.1 million in overdue payroll taxes, Mr. Sharpton collected a $250,000 salary, a practice that a recent Treasury report called abusive.

Mr. Sharpton said today he and NAN were paying their taxes on time and keeping up with installment plans. Rebuffing the report, he said “not one dime” had been used by NAN to pay the expensive private school tuition of his children and said there was “not one red penny” of current taxes owed by NAN or himself.

“These are all on back taxes pre-2006 that you’ve covered over and over again. Every time there’s a Sean Bell or a Ferguson or a Trayvon Martin, we go through my taxes,” Mr. Sharpton said. “It’s the same agreement, y’all.”

He could not say what he currently owed in back taxes, including penalties and interest. As of December of last year, Mr. Sharpton said NAN owes $400,000 in back taxes and the same amount in penalties–he openly bristled at the penalty amount.

The reverend, who enjoys an extraordinarily close relationship with both President Barack Obama and Mayor Bill de Blasio, tore into the media for constantly highlighting his bond with those figures and ignoring how allegedly well he worked with past leaders like President George W. Bush and Michael Bloomberg, two Republicans. To underscore the point, he read aloud from a dedication Mr. Bloomberg wrote for Mr. Sharpton’s lavish 60th birthday party, which he said raised more than $1 million for NAN.

Mr. Sharpton claimed news outlets zero in on his relationship with President Obama and Mayor de Blasio–his former aide, Rachel Noerdlinger, was chief of staff to Mr. de Blasio’s wife before taking a leave of absence this week–because powerful interests never wanted to see either of them win their posts. (Mr. Sharpton would also not confirm another report today that he offered Ms. Noerdlinger her old job back.)

“A lot of people don’t like the fact that President Obama is the president, a lot of people don’t like the fact that Bill de Blasio won for mayor and certainly don’t like the act that I’m still here—and I ain’t going nowhere,” Mr. Sharpton told the Observer.

He said, with a smile, that he is used to scrutiny.

“I always sleep with one eye open.”