Whopper of the Week: Al Sharpton

Hey, Rev. Al, where’d you get that suit?

Q: As recently as last year, you were claiming that you … didn’t even own any of your suits, that you didn’t have a credit card.

A: That’s a lie. Where did I make that claim, sir?

Q: Well, it was in the New York Times.

A: That’s not true.

Q: OK, well in that case …

A: Not true. How could I not own my suits? I mean again, I think …

Q: That’s a question a lot of us would like to know.

A: I think you would do yourself and a lot of people service, if you did better research. What you’re referring to—never said that. Never said it.

Al Sharpton, questioned by guest co-host Jonah Goldberg on CNN’s Crossfire, Feb. 26.

Q: Reverend Sharpton, how many suits do you own? 
A: Well, you would have to—I debate whether I own it because a lot of that is business expense, but I have, I have access to about 10 or 12. 
Q: And you say that you—you say they are business expenses. Are they paid for by someone other than yourself? 
A: Some. 
Q: Are they paid for by National Action Network
A: No. 
Q: Are they paid for by Rev. Als Productions?
[This is a company that books Sharpton’s speeches.]
A: Maybe a couple. 
Q: Any other wearing apparel of yours paid for by other parties? 
A: Yeah, I would say half my suits are gifts. The suit I have on, a guy gave me. 
Q: Have you ever purchased a suit for yourself? 
A.: Not lately.

Sharpton deposition, Dec. 6, 2000. Garry Bolnick, a lawyer for Steven A. Pagones, was attempting to collect on Pagones’ $65,000 defamation judgment  against Sharpton for alleging, falsely, that Pagones had raped Tawana Brawley. Pagones was assistant district attorney for Duchess County, N.Y., when the Brawley hoax  took place there. The deposition was leaked to the New York Times, which ran an article by Alan Feuer that included this snippet on Dec. 21, 2000.

(Thanks to Jonah Goldberg, who flagged it in the online edition of National Review, and to reader Eugene Volokh, who alerted Chatterbox.)

[Clarification, 03/0102: Each week, Chatterbox must decide whether to add a “discussion” paragraph explaining how the two passages contradict one another. This week Chatterbox didn’t, and, perhaps as a consequence, several readers e-mailed Chatterbox to argue that a man does indeed own a suit that is given to him as a gift. Chatterbox concedes the point. The key contradiction is between Sharpton’s statement on Crossfire, “How could I not own my suits?” and Sharpton’s earlier statement in the Pagones deposition, “I debate whether I own it because a lot of that is business expense.” It’s clear from the context that Sharpton meant to say “them” rather than “it,” because he was talking about all 10 to 12 suits that he had “access” to.]

Got a whopper? Send it to To be considered, an entry must be an unambiguously false statement paired with an unambiguous refutation, and both must be derived from some appropriately reliable public source. Preference will be given to newspapers and other documents that Chatterbox can link to online.

Whopper Archive:
Feb. 22, 2002: Olympic skating judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne
Feb. 14, 2002: Kenneth Lay
Feb 8, 2002: Enron spokeswoman Peggy Mahoney
Jan. 31, 2002: Monsanto
Jan. 24, 2002: Linda Chavez
Jan. 17, 2002: George W. Bush
Jan. 10, 2002: Simon & Schuster
Jan. 4, 2002: The Associated Press

(Click  here  to access the Whopper Archive for 2001.)