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'Race Card' Remark Provokes Response

March 30, 2001|GREG BRAXTON

Viacom Inc. Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin's statement Wednesday that supporters of fired "BET Tonight" host Tavis Smiley were playing the "race card" sparked reaction Thursday from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, NAACP Chairman Kweisi Mfume and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Sharpton, who will lead a protest today in Washington outside BET headquarters, took the most aggressive stance.

Mfume is expected to detail his position this morning, and Jackson sought reconciliation.

"We are calling on Mel Karmazin to apologize for his comments, or else there will be massive demonstrations at [Viacom-owned] CBS," said Sharpton, National Action Network president.

Karmazin's remark came during his address to the Hollywood Radio and Television Society. This followed last week's abrupt termination of Smiley, a well-respected commentator on the black cable network recently bought by Viacom.

Karmazin could not be reached for comment.

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