The Smoking Gun published an investigation Monday that said Sharpton taped conversations with mafia bosses as an FBI informant in the '80s. The New York Post and the New York Daily News subsequently ran front-page headlines labeling Sharpton a "rat" and a "mob snitch."
Speaking at the headquarters of his National Action Network in Harlem, Sharpton, who also hosts MSNBC's "PoliticsNation," confirmed that he did record conversations with mobsters but only in the interest of getting them to repeat threats against him, according to the New York Observer.
“Rats are usually people that were with other rats," Sharpton said, as quoted by the Observer. "I was not and am not a rat, because I wasn’t with the rats. I’m a cat. I chase rats.”
He argued The Smoking Gun's story was old news already disclosed in his 1996 book. As Sharpton's story goes, he went to police once he started receiving death threats for his activism, and then began taping interactions with mafia bosses.
Sharpton also said he wasn't surprised that the report dropped right before his National Action Network's annual summit, which both New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and President Barack Obama were expected to attend.
“We’re used to the attacks,” he said, as quoted by the Observer. “The only thing I was embarrassed by was those old, fat pictures. Could y’all use tomorrow’s cover, the new slim [ones]?”