The White House said that President Obama was looking forward to addressing the annual conference hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, amid reports the civil rights leader worked as a confidential informant for the FBI.
Asked if there were any “second thoughts” about allowing the president to go ahead and speak at Sharpton's National Action Network conference, after the media attention on Sharpton, White House press secretary Jay Carney replied “no.”
“Reverend Sharpton and the National Action Network have made significant contributions to civil rights efforts, and the president looks forward to appearing at the conference,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One, as Obama traveled to Texas.
Carney noted that Obama had spoken to the group before.
Reports this week revealed that Sharpton wore a wire as part of a secret FBI investigation of New York City mafia figures, leading to charges that helped bring down members of the Genovese crime family.
Sharpton worked with the FBI for four years in the mid-1980s, according to documents first published Monday by the Smoking Gun website.
Sharpton, an MSNBC host and staunch supporter of Obama, has downplayed his work with the FBI, saying that he was “not a rat because I wasn’t with the rats,” at a press conference on Tuesday.
“I’m a cat. I chase rats,” Sharpton told reporters, according to reports.
Sharpton said that he had been threatened by mobsters and had done the right thing by cooperating with the FBI to take them down.