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Rev. Al Sharpton Weighs In On New York's Democratic Primary

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Hillary Clinton's big win in New York adds at least 135 delegates to her already formidable lead over Bernie Sanders. The state may have helped her, as Clinton put it, to, quote, "wrap up the nomination." The Rev. Al Sharpton is a prominent human rights activist in New York and something of a Democratic power broker. And he joins us now to talk about those results. Good morning.

AL SHARPTON: Good morning, good morning.

MONTAGNE: Good morning. So Hillary Clinton had a good night. What is your takeaway on why?

SHARPTON: Well, I think she was able to really show her home-state strength. You must remember, she was the U.S. senator here. She had most of the elected Democratic leadership, from the governor to the state legislators, congressional delegations, all working their districts. She did very well in terms of pulling her vote out. And Sen. Sanders, who I really think helped change the conversation around this campaign nationally and in New York, was not able to really build an infrastructure in New York.

He did not penetrate the African-American community. He got, like, 22 to 25 percent of the vote. And I think Hillary Clinton was able to capitalize on it, and she's probably beyond the reach, numerically, to be stopped as the Democratic nominee at this point. Both of them spoke at our National Action Network national convention here in New York last week. And I think that they raised good arguments. And I think Sanders has pushed her a lot more to the left. But I don't think that he's been able to make the argument that would secure the nomination at this point.

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, Bernie Sanders would seem to appeal to many of the communities that he has actually not been able to bring on board - you know, in particular, African-American voters of your generation, although he does do better with younger African-American voters. How do you explain that - that his message doesn't match his appeal?

SHARPTON: Well, I think that if you look at the numbers, the reason he's not, in many ways, getting that appeal over here, is because many of the fights in the last several years, whether you go to the '90s into now, he has not been as involved. I really don't think it resonates to say, I marched 50 years ago with Dr. King or voted 30 years ago for Reverend Jesse Jackson when there's been many marches and many movements since then and many black candidates since then.

So I think that it looks almost dated, whether it's my generation or the generation behind me. People in National Action Network that are millennials say, but wait a minute, where was he during Trayvon? And where was he during Ferguson? And I think those are legitimate questions. And I might add he has not won the majority of the millennial black generation.

He's done better with younger blacks than he's done with older blacks, but he has not won younger blacks in the majority. Mrs. Clinton has been able to win even younger blacks, even though it is the lesser figure. So one has to really ask themselves, what is the difference between white millennials and black millennials when it comes down to votes?

MONTAGNE: You have not endorsed either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Both have sought your support. Are you going to endorse a Democratic nominee? And if you are, want to endorse somebody right now?

SHARPTON: I mean, I think - no, I don't want to endorse anyone right now. But I think at some point I will. But what I wanted to do, and what we've done, is to keep the issues of voting rights, police reform and economic disparity front and center without anyone being able to color it that I'm speaking on behalf of a candidate.

I wanted to be an advocate rather than a surrogate, which is why I think both of them came to our convention last week, which is why we've been central in this discussion raising the issues. The minute you endorse someone, you're speaking on their behalf. I want to speak on behalf of what we're standing for, and that is keeping these issues front and center that plague our community.

We had a policeman not given time yesterday in New York that killed an unarmed young men. We have a shooting we're looking at in St. Louis. These things must be front and center and not confused with somebody's campaign.

MONTAGNE: All right, well, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: The Rev. Al Sharpton is founder of the National Action Network. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.