Rev. Al Sharpton is disputing a report that said he helped bring down mobsters in the ’80s as an FBI informant.
The Smoking Gun published a lengthy investigation Monday, based on hundreds of pages of FBI documents, court records, and interviews with investigators and other law enforcement officials, that said Sharpton cooperated with an FBI/NYPD task force aimed at taking down the leaders of the Genovese crime family. As “CI-7,” or confidential informant No. 7, Sharpton allegedly recorded conversations with mafia bosses that provided valuable information to investigators.
Sharpton acknowledged Monday in an interview with the New York Daily News that he had assisted the FBI beginning in 1983, but challenged some of the facts in The Smoking Gun report. He said that he contacted authorities after he received death threats from mobsters including Joseph Buonanno, a member of the Gambino crime family, over his activism.
“If you’re a victim of a threat, you’re not an informant — you’re a victim trying to protect yourself,” he told the Daily News.
He further acknowledged recording conversations with mafia bosses but said The Smoking Gun was wrong in reporting he used a bugged briefcase. The FBI never paid him for that activity, although he was occasionally reimbursed for travel, he told the newspaper.
“I was never told I was an informant or I had a number or none of that,” he told the Daily News. “Whether or not they used some of the other information they got during that period for other purposes, I don’t know.”
This post has been updated.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.