WASHINGTON (CNN)– Reverend Al Sharpton and his lawyers say they are preparing to file a defamation lawsuit against conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh for an op-ed published Saturday, which Sharpton alleges "erroneously" characterizes his (Sharpton's) role in a string of violent incidents in New York in the early 90's.
In the op-ed published in Saturday's Wall Street Journal Limbaugh writes Sharpton "played a leading role in the 1991 Crown Heights riot (he called neighborhood Jews ‘diamond merchants’) and 1995 Freddie's Fashion Mart riot."
The Crown Heights riot began after a Hasidic Rabbi accidently struck and killed an African American boy with his car. The boy died from the injuries–sparking four nights of riots. The Rabbi was not charged, but Sharpton played a large role in rallying on behalf of the young boy’s family and the African American community.
According to a statement put out by Sharpton’s media consultant, a study New York Governor Mario Cuomo commissioned showed Sharpton was not involved in the Crown Heights incident until after the rioting concluded.
"Mr. Limbaugh's blatant and defamatory statements regarding the Crown Heights Riots falsely give the impression that Rev. Sharpton was present during the violence that occurred when in reality he had been called in by the family after the violence," Sharpton’s statement says.
"In terms of Freddie's Fashion Mart, Rev. Al Sharpton, along with local elected officials supported the protests. However, a lone gunman who disagreed with the nonviolent nature of the protests entered the store and killed seven people and himself… For Mr. Limbaugh to imply that Rev. Sharpton has anything to do with someone that killed people and himself is blatantly wrong," the statement continues.
Limbaugh’s attempt to invest in the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams franchise was overshadowed by a controversy over his “racial views,” which Limbaugh says were false. In the op-ed, he also lashes out at several media outlets, including CNN and “the sports writer community,” for what he calls "contempt in the news business."
“ ‘Racism’ is too often their sledgehammer," Limbaugh writes. “And it is being used to try to keep citizens who don't share the left's agenda from participating in the full array of opportunities this nation otherwise affords each of us… It was employed against patriotic citizens who attended town-hall meetings and tea-party protests. These intimidation tactics are working and spreading, and they are a cancer on our society."
Sharpton said unless Limbaugh apologizes or clarifies his remarks, the Reverend’s attorneys will move forward with a lawsuit.
"Limbaugh has the right to criticize Rev. Sharpton, but he does not have the right to accuse him of criminal activity, and riots and murders are criminal," the statement concludes.
Efforts to reach Limbaugh’s office were unsuccessful. The Wall Street Journal declined to comment.
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