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Limbaugh faces lawsuit, if no apology

Herb Boyd | 4/12/2011, 4:39 p.m.

If controversial talk show Rush Limbaugh doesn't apologize for his comments published in an op-ed column in last week's Wall Street Journal, he may face a defamation lawsuit from the Rev. Al Sharpton.

In his column, Limbaugh, who has been in the news lately after being asked to invest in the purchase of the winless St. Louis Rams football team, charged that Sharpton played "a leading role in the 1991 Crown Heights riot (he called neighborhood Jews 'diamond merchants') and 1995 Freddie's Fashion Mart riot."

"Mr. Limbaugh's blatant and defamatory statements regarding the Crown Heights riots falsely give the impression that Rev. Sharpton was present during the violence that occurred when in reality, he had been called in by the family after the violence," was a sharply worded statement from Sharpton's camp.

"In fact, a study was commissioned by Governor Mario Cuomo that stated unequivocally that activists, including Rev. Al Sharpton, didn't get to Crown Heights until after the riot," the statement continued. "Ironically, in 1991, not only did Rev. Sharpton not participate in the Crown Heights violence, this was the same year he was stabbed in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and he later went to court to plea for leniency for his stabber and forgave him.

"In terms of Freddie's Fashion Mart, Rev. Al Sharpton, along with local elected officials supported the protests. However, a lone gunman who disagreed with the nonviolent nature of the protests entered the store and killed seven people and himself. He was a known critic of Rev. Sharpton's use of non-violent techniques. For Mr. Limbaugh to imply that Rev. Sharpton has anything to do with someone that killed people and himself is blatantly wrong."

Limbaugh was incensed when his bid to buy the Rams, along with Dave Checketts, was rejected and he blamed "race hustlers," including the Rev. Jesse Jackson in his allegations against Sharpton.

Sharpton and Jackson, Limbaugh asserted, were in cahoots with the NFL Players Association in blocking his bid. "He's delusional," Sharpton said of Limbaugh and his charges. "He's trying to inflate himself--that he's so important that the whole world has to be against him. He ought to ask his partners why they threw him under the bus."

Meanwhile, Sharpton's lawyers are preparing the lawsuit if Limbaugh refuses to apologize or to clarify his statements.

"He has the right to criticize Rev. Sharpton," the statement said, "but he does not have the right to accuse him of criminal activity, and riots and murders are criminal."