Alfred Charles "Al" Sharpton, Jr. (born October 3, 1954) is an American Baptist minister, civil rights activist, and television/radio talk show host. In 2004, he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidential election. He hosts his own radio talk show, Keepin' It Real, and he makes regular guest appearances on Fox News (such as The O'Reilly Factor) CNN, and MSNBC. In 2011, he was named the host of MSNBC's PoliticsNation, a nightly talk show.
Sharpton's supporters praise "his ability and willingness to defy the power structure that is seen as the cause of their suffering" and consider him "a man who is willing to tell it like it is". Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, a one-time foe, said that Sharpton deserves the respect he enjoys among Black Americans: "He is willing to go to jail for them, and he is there when they need him."
His critics describe him as "a political radical who is to blame, in part, for the deterioration of race relations". Sociologist Orlando Patterson has referred to him as a racial arsonist, while liberal columnist Derrick Z. Jackson has called him the black equivalent of Richard Nixon and Pat Robertson. Sharpton sees much of the criticism as a sign of his effectiveness. "In many ways, what they consider criticism is complimenting my job," he said. "An activist's job is to make public civil rights issues until there can be a climate for change."