Al Sharpton took issue with Ralph Nader's use of a racial epithet at a Washington fund-raiser.
If Ralph Nader doesn't stop dropping the N-bomb, Al Sharpton is going to wash out his mouth with soap.
"Nader is not a racist by any stretch of the imagination," Sharpton told me yesterday. "He has a good track record. But he ought to be sensitive that he does not sanitize that word."
Speaking Wednesday night at a Washington fund-raiser to retire the debt from his 2004 presidential campaign, Nader complained that Democratic Party powerbrokers had kept him off the ballot in such Southern states as Georgia and Virginia - which reminded him of the oppressive Jim Crow laws that denied African-Americans equal rights.
"I felt like a [n-word]," remarked the 70-year-old white multimillionaire graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School.
Washington gadfly Evan Gahr reported Nader's comments on his chimpstein.com Web site.
"If Ed Koch had said what Ralph Nader said, we'd be marching," Sharpton noted. "This [scolding] doesn't rise to the level of a march. It rises to the level of a wrist slap."
Yesterday, Nader told me he was using the word in the same spirit as the Black Panthers of the 1960s - "as a word of defiance."
But Sharpton retorted: "He's not a Black Panther."
Democratic operative Harold Ickes - a former civil rights activist who lost a kidney in 1965 after being beaten to a pulp by white racists in Tallulah, La. - was also troubled by Nader's use of the epithet.
"It's not something that I would say," Ickes told me yesterday. "Having grown up in the 1950s and 1960s, I think it's not a word that whites can use.
"It's unfortunate and he may regret it."