Al Sharpton Defends FBI Cooperation as Proper and Necessary

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The Rev. Al Sharpton said Tuesday night that he did the right thing by cooperating with federal investigators looking into mob influence in the music business during the 1980s.

Sharpton, who came to national prominence by leading protests of police investigations in New York, said at the end of his "Politics Nation" program on MSNBC that I've certainly had my differences with police and still question them, but we must live in a country where people can call law enforcement and not be castigated."

MSNBC is a division of NBCUniversal, as is NBC News.

Sharpton was responding to a report on the website The Smoking Gun, which posted dozens of documents outlining how Sharpton helped the FBI gather evidence on members of the powerful Gambino, Columbo and Genovese crime families.

Sharpton — whose cooperation with the FBI was first revealed by the New York newspaper Newsday in 1988 — told viewers Tuesday night that he went to the agency after his life was threatened by mobsters as he advocated for more prominent representation of African-American promoters in the music business.

"A guy who called himself 'Sal' actually flew to New York from L.A. and said that if I didn't stop interfering, they would kill me," he said. "My call led to my cooperating with the FBI against those mob guy — or who they said they were — to try to protect myself."

At a news conference earlier in the day, Sharpton said he'd had no choice but to have contact with mob figures if he was to be effective as an advocate.

"The 1980s was dominated in music by mobsters," Sharpton told reporters. "If you dealt with a president of a record company, unfortunately, you were dealing with people who sooner or later were alleged to be mobbed up.

"You had two options: get killed by the mob or get killed or hurt for trying to get them out of the community, or leave things as they were," he said. "And I was not going to do that. I've never done that."