Is Al Sharpton a ‘Pawn’ in Comcast’s Chess Game?

Who’s side are you on?

On one side, you have TV veteran Byron Allen calling Rev. Al Sharpton a “black pawn” in cable giant Comcast’s racial chess game. He’s part of a $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit against Comcast-Time Warner. On the other, you have MSNBC host and National Action Network leader Al Sharpton, who has done many great things for social justice, but was initially criticized by some black journalists when his diversity negotiations with Comcast resulted in his hiring as a show host.

Allen, who apparently remembers this controversy, retouched on some of its themes when he repeatedly called out Sharpton in an interview with conservative-leaning web site The Daily Caller.

“Al Sharpton is nothing more than a black pawn in a very sophisticated white economic chess game,” Allen continued. “He’s not even bright enough to know he’s on the chess board and he’s being used by his white masters at Comcast, specifically [executive vice president] David Cohen and [chairman and CEO] Brian Roberts.”

The interview is full of hay-makers from the TV producer lobbed at Sharpton, who he essentially accuses of selling out to corporate interests for his own self-gain. Allen’s lawsuit, which also includes the National Association of African-American Owned Media as a plaintiff, claims Comcast/Time Warner discriminates against African American-owned media companies seeking cable distribution deals for their programming. Allen’s Entertainment Studios had been in talks with Comcast about the cable giant distributing their content.

“It’s cheaper to give Al Sharpton money than it is to do business with real African-American owned media,” Allen told TheDC. “What Comcast does is they give Al Sharpton money so he doesn’t call them racist. That is the issue here.”

Allen accused Sharpton of claiming to represent black people, but that black people don’t benefit from his actions saying, “Why is he cutting deals that somehow I don’t benefit from but somehow he’s on television every night?” He also criticized Sharpton’s skills as a newsman, calling him out for flubbing his lines on television.

“Why is Sharpton on TV every night on MSNBC? Because he endorsed Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. He signed the memorandum of understanding back in 2010. He endorsed the merger. Next thing you know we’re watching him on television trying to form a sentence. Every night we have the privilege of watching adult illiteracy.”

But Allen didn’t stop at Sharpton in the interview. He also went in on Rev. Jesse Jackson and President Barack Obama. (“Obama has been bought and paid for,” he says, after saying that every politician in D.C. is in bed with Comcast.) He also trashes Sharpton and Jackson specifically for taking money from AT&T.

“I find it outstanding that AT&T is the biggest sponsor of Sharpton’s 60th birthday party,” Allen said. “AT&T spent more money on Al Sharpton’s birthday party than they have on 100 percent African-American owned media combined. [Sharpton] should return the money because AT&T doesn’t even celebrate Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday. The employees there take it as a sick day.”

“Reverend Jesse Jackson, you were on the balcony when Martin Luther King was assassinated. Why are you taking money from AT&T? Why is Al Sharpton getting more money from AT&T than Ebony Magazine, which has been around for 70 years?”

Personally, even if Allen has some valid points, all of this feels a little sketchy. There’s no need to insult the Reverend’s intelligence. And many diversity proponents have had nothing but good things to say about Comcast NBCUniversal’s commitment to increasing black and brown representation in their ranks. Sharpton also called Allen’s accusations “frivolous.”

But on the other hand … it’s Comcast. Until I get more facts, I’m #TeamNobody on this one.

You can read more of what Allen had to say at The Daily Caller here. On Allen versus Sharpton and Comcast who’s side are you on?