When the Rev. Al Sharpton was negotiating with MSNBC in 2011 for his 6 p.m. show, he made clear right away that his role as a civil-rights activist with his National Action Network (NAN) wouldn’t change. After MSNBC President Phil Griffin proposed a nightly gig for Sharpton, the controversial figure stipulated, “I said, well, I’m still going to run NAN, I’m still going to be an activist,” said Sharpton.
The response was encouraging: “He said, ‘Put it in the contract. We’d never interfere with what you’re doing, your civil rights work,” Shartpon quoted Griffin as saying. The reverend ended up with a “carve out” from NBC News’s policies against political participation. Sharpton and MSNBC sustained criticism from some media critics for his activism over the Trayvon Martin case.
Those exchanges and other recollections surfaced last night during a Sharpton appearance at the District’s Martin Luther King Jr. Library, an event to promote his new book, “The Rejected Stone: Al Sharpton and the Path to American Leadership.”
Dressed in a gray suit and blue tie, Sharpton discussed how he ended up in talks with MSNBC: Paula Madison, the since-departed chief diversity officer for NBCUniversal, suggested to Sharpton that he do on MSNBC something along the lines of what Jesse Jackson had done at CNN, where Jackson had hosted a weekly program, “Both Sides,” from 1992 to 2000.
Sounded good to Sharpton, who got a series of tryouts.
After he’d proven himself a bit on air, Sharpton had breakfast with Griffin. “He said, I’m going to be very honest with you, Reverend. I don’t like to do things that’s already been done. He said this idea of doing what CNN did with Jesse 20 years ago — I don’t like that,” recalled Sharpton in last night’s event. That meant no weekly current-affairs program, but rather a daily one.
When he found out he’d gotten the 6 p.m. slot, Sharpton was delighted. “Great! All the people who rejected me get off work at about 5:00,” Sharpton said. By 6 p.m, he said, they’d be “looking at me, the rejected stone.”
On matters entirely unrelated to his contract, Sharpton fielded a question about how he had shed the extra pounds he once carried around. Three years ago, he decided to “take the weight off, and I changed all my eating habits.” Here are those habits:
I no longer eat meat.
I no longer eat any sugar, I don’t eat starches.
I only eat whole wheat toast to work out.
And I don’t eat anything after 6 in the evening.
Daily intake for the reverend consists of a salad and that whole wheat toast. “Most people can’t do that, but I do.” In his book, Sharpton writes that fish occasionally sneaks into his diet, “most likely on the weekends.”
Yesterday morning, Sharpton weighed in at 138 lbs., down from a peak of 305 lbs. years ago.