Sharpton on Koch: We Disagreed, but He Wasn't a Phony

The Rev. Al reflects on the death of a politician whom he heavily criticized, saying, "He fought for what he believed."

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The Rev. Al Sharpton (MSNBC)

(The Root) -- National Action Network President the Rev. Al Sharpton is the first to admit he was one of the "most vociferous critics" of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who died on Friday at age 88. But in a statement released today that reveals the complexity of political and personal relationships, he at once pointed out his disagreements with Koch, who was often accused of using racially divisive rhetoric, and praised him for his integrity and authenticity.

"Throughout his 12 years of being mayor, I was one of his most vociferous critics. In fact, my first arrest was leading a sit-in on him about summer jobs for youth in 1978," Sharpton said. "We later united and worked together around the country in a national campaign for nonviolent drug offenders to give them a second chance in life, and we ended up getting to know and understand each other.

"Although we argued about everything from my marching in Bensonhurst to Florida and Trayvon Martin, and although we disagreed on politics from his views on President Obama to other matters, I have found that he was never a phony or a hypocrite," Sharpton continued. "He would not patronize or deceive you. He said what he meant. He meant what he said. He fought for what he believed. May he rest in peace."

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