KERRY SHARPTON
Elise Amendola  /  AP file
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., right, speaks with the Rev. Al Sharpton in Washington in a March file photograph.
By Michael E. Ross Reporter
msnbc.com
updated 4/29/2004 8:38:49 PM ET 2004-04-30T00:38:49

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has reportedly offered his former campaign rival the Rev. Al Sharpton an invitation to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Boston this summer.

Kerry made the overture to Sharpton in the first of a two-part interview with BET Nightly News anchor Jacque Reid. The two-part interview, taped Thursday during a Kerry campaign stop in Philadelphia, will be broadcast on the BET cable channel on Monday and Tuesday nights.

“If he wants to do it, he can do it,” Kerry said in an interview excerpt released Thursday by BET. “I think he'll add something ... there's no plea necessary. It's my invitation.”

Kerry went on to say that he thought Sharpton — whose frank, forthright and often humorous rhetorical delivery set him apart from other Democratic challengers — would have a positive impact on the campaign. “He certainly earned the right to be part of this process, and I think he can be very, very helpful in motivating people, in helping to register people,” Kerry told BET.

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Kerry's offer comes at a time when some Democrats and advocacy groups have said a lack of minority representation at upper levels of Kerry’s presidential campaign may weaken enthusiasm among black and Hispanic voters, two core Democratic constituencies.

Concerns about campaign’s diversity
Some black officials and independent analysts have expressed concern about the campaign’s lack of racial diversity in the campaign's upper echelon.

“There is a sense that Kerry’s people don’t get it,” said Ron Walters, who worked on the presidential campaigns of veteran civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and who directs the African-American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland.

“The Kerry campaign certainly at the top definitely needs some African-Americans, needs Hispanics, it needs to be more diverse,” said David Bositis, a political scientist at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank focused on black issues. “But he’s got plenty of time to address this,” Bositis told The Associated Press recently.

President Clinton won 83 percent of the black vote in 1992 and 84 percent in 1996. Four years later, Democrat Al Gore received 90 percent of that vote.

The Democratic convention will be held in Boston July 26-29.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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