Political activist and onetime Democratic presidential candidate Rev. Al Sharpton says he was impressed by a member of the 2020 Democratic field, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with whom he lunched today in New York City's Harlem neighborhood.
The two met for lunch at Sylvia's, a famed soul food restaurant in Harlem and a popular stop for political candidates. During the lunch, which was live-streamed online, Sharpton mentioned his gay sister and praised Buttigieg's willingness to be open as a gay politician.
Sharpton recalled watching his sister "navigate between being black and being gay" in the 1960s and said she challenged him to address same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ issues during his presidential run in 2004. Buttigieg's openness, Sharpton added, is inspiring.
Sharpton noted Christian right figure Franklin Graham's recent assertion that Buttigieg should repent of being gay, something that Sharpton called "ridiculous." Buttigieg responded, "I think [Graham will] isolate himself over time, with that kind of language. At least, I'd like to think that."
The two discussed the need to challenge bigotry on all fronts, whether it's racism, homophobia, or anything else. African-Americans and LGBTQ people have in common being "the other," Buttigieg told Sharpton. Donald Trump's presidency, Sharpton added, has motivated those who are 'other' to unite in resistance.
On MSNBC, shortly after the lunch, Sharpton quoted Buttigieg as saying, "I represent 'the other.' ... I'm running for the other."
"I thought he was very much authentic," Sharpton said of Buttigieg, adding that the mayor went to every table in the restaurant to speak with customers and was well-received.
Buttigieg also addressed the controversy over his ouster of Darryl Boykins, South Bend's first Black police chief. The move came in 2012, early in Buttigieg's first term, and was motivated by Boykins's secret taping of phone calls involving officers who reportedly made racist comments about him. Buttigieg called this a violation of trust.
The mayor has refused to release the tapes, but a court recently ruled that he must make them available to the South Bend Common Council. Buttigieg said today that his firing of Boykins will be proved to have been justified, Sharpton said.
At a press conference after the lunch, journalist Terrell Starr asked Buttigieg if he had reconsidered his opposition to voting rights for people who are incarcerated. Buttigieg said he had not, but he did support restoration of voting rights once these people are released.
He added that he's for decriminalization of marijuana, and if that comes to pass, people who've been imprisoned for marijuana-related crimes should be fully reintegrated into society.