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Sharpton says he's not jealous of Obama

Story Highlights

• Sharpton claims Obama's campaign planted article accusing him of being jealous
• Article appeared Monday in the New York Post
• Story cited two unnamed Democratic activists
• Obama's campaign said there is no rift between the senator and Sharpton
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- The Rev. Al Sharpton has denied he is jealous of Sen. Barack Obama's popularity, a charge made Monday in a New York Post article.

The article, printed just two weeks after Sharpton and Obama publicly shared a hug in Selma, Alabama, said the reverend "has launched a 'big-time' effort to tear down" the Democratic presidential hopeful because he is jealous of his soaring popularity.

Sharpton responded Tuesday by saying Obama's campaign planted the story. (Watch Sharpton sound off on Obama Video)

"It's important to point out, they started this," Sharpton said. "I mean, I wake up yesterday morning with no warning and [read] 'Is he jealous because he won't endorse?' I've never heard anything like that in my life in politics.

"This is one time I didn't start the fight," he said. (Watch how the two camps are in a spat Video)

The Post article, citing an unidentified black Democratic activist, said, "It's driving Al crazy that Obama is as impressive and popular as he is, and he's not happy about it."

"Sharpton is just terrified of being overshadowed by someone of Obama's class and character," the activist said, according to the article.

Sharpton denied the claims and said he wants to know more about where Obama and the rest of the Democratic field stand on civil rights issues before he offers support.

"I want to talk about a civil rights agenda as a priority, and the answer to that is not, 'Oh if you want to talk about issues you must be jealous,' " he said. "This is what we have always done."

Sharpton said Monday in an interview on New York City's WCBS radio that he was not ready to support Obama's White House bid and suggested that the country's only African-American senator was taking the black community's support for granted.

"Why shouldn't the black community ask questions? Are we now being told, 'You all just shut up?' " Sharpton said.

"Sen. Obama and I agree that the war is wrong, but then I want to know why he went to Connecticut and helped [Sen. Joe] Lieberman, the biggest supporter of the war," he added.

"I'm not going to be cajoled or intimidated by any candidate, not for my support," he said.

Sharpton said Obama called him to talk about the article Monday night, but he wasn't available. He said he plans to call the Illinois Democrat back.

"I want to say to him he's a very impressive candidate, he has a lot to offer, but he must answer substantive questions in his own African-American community as he does in other communities," Sharpton said.

Sharpton sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and has not ruled out another bid in 2008.

Asked about the possibility of running for president again, Sharpton said, "I would prefer not being in this cycle, but I am not going to be silent whether I am in the race or not, nor do I think anyone else should be."

Obama's campaign said there is no rift between the senator and Sharpton and said Obama plans to attend Sharpton's National Action Network Conference next month.

CNN's Mary Snow contributed to this report.


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The Rev. Al Sharpton says he is not jealous of Sen. Barack Obama.

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