Sharpton: Listen to Jackson's Claims

Wednesday, July 10th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Rev. Al Sharpton said Tuesday that Michael Jackson's allegations of racism in the music industry should be taken seriously and called for record companies to address the problem.

``We are today calling for a meeting with every head of every record company ... to begin to discuss artists' contracts and their business dealings in the African-American community,'' Sharpton said.

Jackson, who called Sony Music Chairman Tommy Mottola a racist on Saturday, did not speak at Tuesday's news conference but did participate in a daylong Summit for Fairness in the Recording Industry at the Harlem headquarters of Sharpton's National Action Network.

Sharpton escorted Jackson past screaming fans and into a limo before the news conference started.

He said Jackson ``eloquently spoke today about how he's concerned that the historic problem of racism in the business needs to be addressed.''

Jackson charged Saturday that the recording industry was a racist conspiracy that makes profits at the expense of performers _ particularly minority artists.

The singer's comments come after disappointing sales for his last album, ``Invincible,'' which took five years to record. Only one video was made to promote the record, which has sold 2 million copies since it's release last fall.

But industry sources say Sony Music spent an estimated $25 million promoting ``Invincible,'' and blame Jackson for not doing enough to promote it.

While Sharpton repeated his earlier assertion that he had not found Mottola to be a racist in his own dealings with the record executive, he sought to deflect attention from Jackson's criticism of Mottola, whom the music star called ``very, very, very devilish.''

``The issue for us is, if $30 million is spent promoting an album, how many of those dollars go back into the African-American community?'' Sharpton said. ``So to go through 'he said, she said' back and forth on personalities is an insult to the issue that we're raising in the community.''

Rapper Doug E. Fresh echoed Sharpton's remarks, saying, ``This is something we've been talking about for a very long time. ... There's a lot of artists who are afraid to stand up.''

Asked to respond to Jackson, a Sony Music spokesman reiterated Monday's statement from the company that said, ``We were deeply offended by the outrageous comments Mr. Jackson made during his publicity stunt this past Saturday. ... Mr. Jackson has committed a serious abuse of the power that comes with celebrity.''

Since Jackson's statements, some top black music people, and even Jackson's former managers, have been quoted criticizing the superstar. Even Jackson's publicist declined to get involved in the fray, referring calls about the issue to Sharpton.

Besides Jackson, there were no major stars who attended Tuesday's summit. But Sharpton said that most stars are reluctant to get involved with such issues anyway.

Sharpton started his music initiative with the attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. last month. Among its goals are to push more minority representation among top executives and to investigate whether artists, particularly black artists, are being financially exploited.