The Rev. Al Sharpton is denying claims made by The Smoking Gun website that he worked as an FBI mob informant in the 1980s.
The website, in a voluminous story published Monday, said eight federal judges signed wiretap directives based at least in part on information provided by the civil rights leader and MSNBC talk show host. One Genovese crime family member admitted speaking openly to Sharpton about extortion, death threats and other crimes while Sharpton's FBI-provided briefcase secretly recorded the conversation, the story says.
The website says its account of Sharpton's secret life as "CI-7" — confidential informant number 7 — was based on hundreds of pages of confidential FBI affidavits, documents released by the bureau in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, court records, and extensive interviews with six members of an FBI/NYPD "Genovese squad" and other law enforcement officials.
Sharpton, challenged by the website, denied being "flipped" by federal agents during an undercover operation — although Smoking Gun claims that when asked about recording of a Gambino crime family member, Sharpton was non-committal: "I'm not saying yes, I'm not saying no."
Sharpton told Smoking Gun his cooperation with FBI agents was limited to efforts to prompt investigations of drug dealing in minority communities and the swindling of black artists in the recording industry.
Sharpton told the New York Daily News that he reached out to authorities after receiving death threats over his efforts to get African Americans more work in the business end of the music industry.
"If you're a victim of a threat, you're not an informant — you're a victim trying to protect yourself," he told the paper.
He told the paper his subsequent conversations with organized crime figures were recorded, but denied using a bugged briefcase. He said he was never paid, but was occasionally reimbursed for travel.
Sharpton's explanation to FoxNews.com rang of patriotism. He told the website he was just "trying to get bad guys out of the music industry, and that is offensive to the American flag."