Al Sharpton Responds to Unpaid Taxes Rumors, Ferguson

November 19, 2014 Updated: October 8, 2018

NEW YORK—In response to a New York Times article published on Tuesday reporting the Rev. Al Sharpton and his civil rights organization owed more than $4.5 million in taxes, Sharpton said the group in fact owes about $800,000, discrediting the Times report at a press conference held on Wednesday.

Calling the Times article “misleading and totally out of context,” he clarified that his organization, the National Action Network, does not owe any new taxes and has been regularly paying installments toward roughly $1 million in overdue taxes and penalties since 2009. The back taxes were unveiled during a 2008 federal criminal investigation into Sharpton and his group’s finances.

But Sharpton declined to reveal what taxes he personally still owed, discussing only the organization’s tax penalties.

He also dismissed the Times’s claim that the Network helped pay for his daughter’s private school tuition. Sharpton explained on Wednesday that he once made a statement in legal testimony, where he said he borrowed money from the Network, “meaning borrowing against my salary at the time,” to pay for his daughter’s tuition.

The civil rights activist criticized the media’s scrutiny of his finances, noting that the organization’s overdue taxes were already reported on back in 2008. “Every time there’s a Sean Bell, or Ferguson, or Treyvon Martin, we go through my taxes,” he said. 

Sharpton also addressed the upcoming grand jury decision in Ferguson, Mo., where the jury will decide whether to indict the police officer responsible for the shooting death of Michael Brown, who was unarmed at the time. Sharpton’s organization has been working with Brown’s family to advocate for justice.

Sharpton said that the Ferguson decision was taking too long, and connected the case with the death of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after police placed him in a chokehold, during an attempt to arrest Garner for selling untaxed cigarettes. 

“It is very suspect to us that the grand jury in both cases appear to be improperly expanding, to where it is about trying to prove or disprove the accused, rather than to see whether there’s probable cause to go to trial,” he said.

His group is organizing 25 cities across the country to hold nonviolent demonstrations, calling on the federal government to begin a criminal investigation of the officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson.

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