Al Sharpton: Comments such as those by Lee Anderson ‘despairingly racist’

Al Sharpton: Comments such as those by Lee Anderson 'despairingly racist'

Civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton has labelled comments such as those by MP Lee Anderson made about Sadiq Khan as “despairingly racist”.

Mr Anderson was suspended from the Conservative Party last weekend after refusing to apologise for claiming “Islamists” had “control” over London and its mayor, Mr Khan.

Now, in an interview with Sky News, Rev Sharpton has said the UK has seen “the allowance of using racism, Islamophobia and homophobia as a political weapon”.

“The more it is allowed and permitted, the more it poisons the atmosphere and separates people,” he said.

Al Sharpton

Rev Sharpton, who is well-known for having spent decades fighting for justice and equality, added that race relations in the UK are “not what they need to be”.

Politics latest: Anderson refuses to budge as Post Office CEO stuns MPs

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Lee Anderson refused to speak to Sky News on Tuesday morning

Responding to the fact Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously described the UK as “the most successful multi-ethnic democracy in the world,” he said: “Well, I think that it may be according to the prime minister – but compared to what?

More on Lee Anderson

“I could say that I am the most handsome guy in the world if I’m standing by myself.

“To evaluate yourself is easy. Evaluation must come from others.”

He added: “When you have members of the government that speak in such despairingly racist terms as we have a Republican candidate, former president of the United States – the freedom they feel they can express that tells us that maybe the prime minister is putting sunshine glasses on?”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Sadiq Khan has accused Mr Anderson of ‘pouring petrol on the flames of Islamophobia’

Rev Sharpton also questioned if diversity across the UK is “replicated and demonstrated in positions of power.”

He said: “If you are using that diversity to send people to Rwanda, or to pit blacks against poor whites, and to try to break up those that want to stand up for the rights of people around Africa [and] the Middle East, then you have only coloured in the same kind of government and supremacy notions that you always had.

“To have people in parliament that look like me, but act against my interest doesn’t make me feel good. We’re not looking for a more diverse era of slave masters. We’re looking for freedom.”

Rev Sharpton, 69, was ordained as a Pentecostal minister in 1964 and his activism began in the same decade.

More from Sky News:
Prince William pulls out of event over personal matter
Priest smells bleach in chalice ‘to avoid mafia threat’

Rev Sharpton has spent decades campaigning for the civil rights movement in the US. Pic: Reuters

In 1969, he was named youth director for a campaign overseen by Jesse Jackson and in 1991 he founded the National Action Network, which fights for civil rights.

He is now working with black churches in the UK as they encourage their congregations to register to vote ahead of this year’s general election – which will require voters to bring ID to polling stations.

With his future as a Conservative MP unclear, Mr Anderson refused to speak to Sky News this morning.

In a Monday night interview with GB News – which broadcast the MP’s initial comments – he said the words he used to criticise Mr Khan were “clumsy” but “borne out of sheer frustration at what is happening to our beautiful capital city”.

He also doubled down on his refusal to apologise, saying: “If you are wrong, apologising is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.

“But when you think you are right you should never apologise because to do so would be a sign of weakness.”

Ms Sunak has said: “Lee’s comments weren’t acceptable, they were wrong. That’s why he’s had the whip suspended.”