The Rev. Al Sharpton said Wednesday he refused to accept an apology from actor Michael Richards, who spouted a racist rant at a comedy club last week.
But Sharpton said he did agree to meet with Richards to try to start a process to address racism in America.
“I [told Richards] you need to sit down and deal with this,” Sharpton told CNN. “This is not about accepting an apology, this is about starting a process to really deal with the continual problem of racism in this country.
“I think that what he did was so injurious that he has to sit down with a group and decide how he tries to . . . deal with healing the obvious problem he’s got in his own mind and his own heart, because it couldn’t come out of you if it wasn’t in you,” Sharpton said.
In a video clip posted on the celebrity gossip Web site TMZ.com, obtained from an audience member, Richards unleashed a nearly three-minute tirade punctuated by racial slurs at a group of African-American hecklers.
In it, he made a reference to lynching and added shortly before walking offstage, “That’s what happens when you interrupt a white man.”
Richards apologized Monday on CBS’s “Late Show” with David Letterman, saying he is not a racist.
Sharpton said Letterman’s show was not the appropriate venue for such an apology.
Richards played comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s oddball neighbor Kramer on the NBC comedy “Seinfeld,” which ran from 1990 to 1998.
Sharpton said he also chastised Richards, telling him, “Here you are, somebody we had in our living room, you were Kramer. We were used to you and to come and see you say this is frightening to many Americans.”
The use of the “n-word” by both blacks and whites needs to be stopped, Sharpton said.
Richards has hired New York public relations expert Howard Rubenstein to help deal with the fallout from the incident.
Rubenstein said Richards also called and spoke with civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Jackson accepted his apology.