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In the Crossfire

Sharpton swings at 'Barbershop' barbs

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Rev. Al Sharpton isn't laughing at the box-office hit "Barbershop." He has called for an apology from its filmmakers and a possible boycott of the movie because of dialogue poking fun at civil rights leaders such as Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Did the movie go over the line? Or does Sharpton not get the joke?

Sharpton joined "Crossfire" hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson to lodge his complaint.

BEGALA: The hottest movie in the country right now is a comedy. It's called "Barbershop." It's aimed primarily at an African-American audience, and it's just a little bit irreverent. ...

[A] remark about civil rights legend, Rosa Parks, and other lines about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Jesse Jackson have infuriated some leaders in the African-American community. ...

CARLSON: ... Here we have a movie I haven't seen. It looks pretty amusing. ... The writers of this movie are black. The producer is black. The director is black. Most of the actors are black, and this movie is the No. 1 movie in the United States for two weeks running, and you're criticizing it.

Why can't you cut a brother a break?

SHARPTON: First of all, I'm so happy that you, all of a sudden, talk of defending brothers. That's progress within itself.

CARLSON: I think it looks like an amusing movie, Rev. Al.

SHARPTON: I think that for you to say that it's amusing, and you haven't seen it, says a lot about your observations.

But on a serious note, I think that there are some things [that] go beyond humor. Martin Luther King died fighting for the freedom of all Americans. I don't think to disparage him, as a line in this movie does, is something that's funny.

I don't think to say that Rosa Parks, who was arrested for sitting down in the front of the bus at that time causing a social revolution that led to desegregation, is something that is funny to me.

CARLSON: Well, wait a second ...

SHARPTON: I think the artists have the right ...

CARLSON: ... Nobody is really attacking.

SHARPTON: ... to say what they want to say, but I think we have a right to respond.

BEGALA: Actually, let me jump in here, too, though. I love the Rev. Jesse Jackson. I think he's a wise and wonderful guy. And one of the things that he has said is that we have to be careful about memorializing Dr. King into irrelevancy. And, in point of fact, history records that Dr. King had a wonderful sense of humor, and maybe you and I may not like this or that, but isn't it better to remember that these legends like Rosa Parks and Dr. King were really people, too? Maybe we ...

SHARPTON: I think that's very important, and I agree with that. And I think that they are human beings. But we're not talking about them being referred to in human terms.

We're talking about they called Dr. King a whore. That's like calling a woman out of a -- that's like someone saying that a woman is a "B," and you're just humanizing her. That's insulting. That's offensive.

And I think if they were just humanizing them, they'd tell jokes about me in movies. You never heard me complain about a movie before, whether they lampoon me or someone else. There's a difference in degrading and denigrating someone's legacy and in telling a joke about that.

CARLSON: Well, wait a second. I would think though, Al Sharpton, you'd be particularly sensitive to efforts to squelch free speech as someone who routinely pushes the limit of that constitutional right.

You can say, "Well, people have a right to boycott, etc.," but you're putting economic pressure, or attempting to, on the distributors of this film. You're really trying to take away their freedom to express themselves, and I wonder why.

SHARPTON: No. What I'm saying is they have the freedom to express themselves, but I have the freedom to say I'm not going to support it.

I think that they have the right to do whatever they want. I also have the right to say that's not funny to me -- I'm not going to finance it; I'm not going to participate.

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