Al Sharpton fired back Friday at Bill O'Reilly over his recent comments about the black community, accusing him and other conservative commentators of trying to "change the conversation" instead of addressing the real issue of a flawed criminal justice system.
It was the latest escalation in the week-long verbal battle since O'Reilly made his initial comments about race on his Fox News show Monday night. On Thursday, O'Reilly accused Sharpton of being "in business with people who put out entertainment harmful to children" because of his association with rapper Lil Wayne.
On Friday, Sharpton on his MSNBC show said that since George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin, "some right-wingers have gone into overdrive to push the most negative stereotypes of the African American community for their own gain."
"The Rush-Hannity-O'Reilly crowd, the unholy triumvirate of right-wing reaction, has been desperate not to have a real conversation about the injustices of the criminal justice system" like where a teenager can be shot dead while walking home, Sharpton said.
Sharpton mocked O'Reilly and his cohorts for having "discovered the epidemic of violence in Chicago, which many of us in the African American community have been talking about for months."
"Better late than never I guess," Sharpton scoffed.
And he said O'Reilly's efforts to blame the breakdown of the black family unit are disingenuous: “Is Bill O’Reilly saying George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin because Trayvon was born out of wedlock, even though he wasn’t? That’s ridiculous, right?”
Sharpton continued, “All of this is an effort to avoid addressing the urgent topic that something is fundamentally flawed with our justice system if laws like 'stand your ground' allow a kid to be gunned down. But Rush, Hannity, O’Reilly don’t want to talk about that, and that's why the keep trying to change the conversation."
Sharpton said O'Reilly has "long shown an ignorance of black culture," pointing to comments O'Reilly made on election night about the black community wanting "stuff" from President Barack Obama.
"We need a real conversation about race in this country, not the same old right-wing divide and conquer garbage," Sharpon said. "Bill O'Reilly, the Willie Horton stuff has got to go."
Watch below, via MSNBC: